Tater Man, a sweet potato grower located in Sydney, FL, began harvesting product in southern Alabama and northern Florida in late July.
Jason Bell, account manager for Tater Man, told The Produce News, “We started harvesting in both areas within the last 10 days of July. Shipments of cured sweet potatoes started toward the end of last week.
“There are many areas of the country that are having crop issues this year due to weather conditions,” he continued.“We’re very fortunate in our locations, and that has helped to ensure us of being in a good position this year.”
Bell said the quality of the company’s sweet potatoes, which are produced by the Penry family in Daphne, AL, and the Coggins family in Florida and Georgia, is looking good. But the areas that Tater Man’s partners grow in weren’t totally spared the heavy rainfall that much of the east has suffered this summer.
“We are running two to three week’s slower than last year because of the moisture,” said Bell. “But because our farms are on sandy soil, we do not have any water damage. We’re not seeing any problems other than a little delay.”
Tater Man will be shipping cured sweet potatoes through the winter holidays this year.
Bell noted that the early movement is light on jumbo No. 1 sizes, but he expects that to change.
“Currently we’re running between 5 and 10 percent jumbos,” he said. “As we get deeper into the season, and with the warmer and dryer weather, we’ll definitely see an increase in the number of jumbos.”
The majority of Tater Man’s sweet potatoes are sold to retail and to the processing side of the industry. Bell said the trend toward higher consumption is good for the demand. And with the anticipated shorter crop this year, it’s also good for pricing.
“We are seeing strong movement at $9 to $10 a box, compared to the past few years where prices were holding at around $5,” said Bell.
Tater Man ships the Hernandez, Evangeline, Covington and Murasaki sweet potato varieties. The Murasaki is the purple-skin sweet potato, which is continually growing in demand.
“We’re about ready to start shipping the cured Murasakis,” said Bell. “To our knowledge, ours are the only ones around. We are starting earlier with them than most other areas.”