Mississippi sweet potato growers plunge forward after difficult year
by Christina DiMartino | March 17, 2010
Following a nearly devastating 2009 sweet potato harvest caused by heavy
rains, producers in Mississippi are putting the past behind them and gearing
up for the future. The state says it will be down by as much as 75 percent,
depending on how packouts unfold.
"We're in a comeback mode," Benny Graves, executive secretary and treasurer
of the Mississippi Sweet Potato Council in Mississippi State, MS, told The
Produce News. "Our focus is on sourcing financing, which is a national issue
because loans are tight. We're also ramping up the Evangeline variety. It tends
to hold up well in wet weather."
A note of good news during a bad year is the great success of the annual
National Sweet Potato Convention held in late January. The MSPC hosted the
event at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, MS.
"We had over 375 in attendance, which is great," said Mr. Graves. "A great mix
of people attended, including growers, researchers, processors, distributors
and some foodservice operators."
Mr. Graves said that by supplementing supplies from North Carolina and
California, Mississippi growers have adequate supplies for market. Growers
recently did a review, and reports are that they will be able to pack through
"We have some supplies in cold storage for our regular customers," Mr.
Graves added. "But we will be out of the market after Easter. Louisiana is
reporting the same conditions."
Growers in Mississippi are plunging forward. Mr. Graves said they are in a
rebuilding mindset, and they are fairly optimistic about the next crop.
Growers have individual plans for securing seed and getting financing.
"Mississippi is working with the state legislature in an effort to get financing,"
said Mr. Graves. "We are in need of low-interest loans. We have a plan in
place to re-enter the market with the next crop. "
Growers are also securing seed potatoes now. Although they will concentrate
on the Evangeline variety for the coming season, they will also be planting
Beauregard and Covington varieties.
Bedding started in mid-March and will run through early April as weather
permits. Growers will be setting plants in fields from mid-May through June.
Harvesting begins in late August to early September under normal weather
conditions. It typically runs through the first of November.
"We're thinking optimistically, and looking for new opportunities," said Mr.
(For more on sweet potatoes, see the March 22, 2010, issue of The Produce