Some part of the country are known for their crops. Salinas Valley, CA, and Yuma, AZ, are lettuce regions. And 60% of U.S. sweet potatoes are grown in Eastern North Carolina.
So when North Carolina harvests are down, the country’s supply of sweet potatoes are down.
A number of factors play into the lower harvest, including Hurricane Florence.
Even before Florence made landfall, estimates for the 2018 North Carolina sweet potato harvest were forecasted to be down. First, sweet potato prices in 2017 were down, leading growers to plant fewer fields in 2018. Then growing conditions had an impact — the region had a cool spring then a dry summer. Expected harvest were lowered to about a 20% drop in yield.
Then Hurricane Florence came through.
With more than 30 inches of rain in some areas, crops were in saturated soil only a month before harvest. Growers wouldn’t know how much the storm impacted the crop until harvest.
No set figures are known yet, but individual growers are reporting their harvest are about 30% off of expectations.
“The sweet potato crop has been affected pretty badly here in our part of North Carolina. I think between the really dry summer then the flood with hurricane, we will be short 30% of normal,” says Rodney Jackson, President and CEO, Jackson Farming Company.
One silver lining, Jackson says, is the lower yield means higher demand, and therefore, higher prices.
To get a better sense of why Hurricane Florence had such an impact, here’s a map of the top counties that produce more than half of NC sweet potatoes compared to a map of where Florence dumped the most rain.