Business & Economy
7:59 am
Sat October 19, 2013

Record Rains Delay NC's Sweet Potato Crop

WUNC's Gurnal Scott reports on how heavy rains earlier this year have affected the state's sweet potato crop.

Buyers of sweet potatoes grown in North Carolina will likely pay more for them at the market this year. North Carolina sweet potato growers have led the nation for years in producing the root crop.  State agriculture estimates are that Tar Heels last year produced about 47 percent of the crop nationally.

Varieties of NC-grown sweet potatoes
Credit NC Sweet Potato Commission

But Sue Johnson-Langdon of the non-profit North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission says this year's yield fell victim to mid-year rainfall that ranks among the wettest in more than a century.  

"June and July is when the crop sets its fruit..it determines which roots are going to become sweet potatoes." Langdon says.  "And it had so much rain that it delayed their sizing up."

The yearly picking usually begins in August.  Langdon says growers expect to lose about one-fifth of the crop.  Ag experts believe that will mean higher prices for sweet potatoes in stores leading up to the holidays. 

Langdon says the effect of rain is always a possibility -- given that the harvest is in the middle of hurricane season.