Tuber Trade

The United States is not the only country enjoying U.S. sweet potatoes, our Food & Ag team reports.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, the United States was the top global exporter, by volume, of sweet potatoes in 2020. 

U.S. sweet potato exports on a fresh-weight basis increased 1,157 percent from 2001 to 2021, and the annual value of exports grew from $14 million to $187 million in the same period. Promotion of the tuber’s health benefits and food companies’ expanding sweet potato offerings—such as sweet potato chips and fries—have helped fuel the expansion. 

Exports to the United Kingdom and European Union experienced strong year-over-year growth from the mid-2000s until 2018.

Rising global competition and the damage caused by Hurricane Florence to the 2019 crop in North Carolina—the state leading U.S. production—cooled the export market. From 2018 to 2021, exports declined to the United Kingdom by 28% and to the European Union by 12%. Meanwhile, exports have continued to increase to Canada, among other destinations. 

The United States ranks seventh globally in sweet potato production, according to FAO. Over the past 20 years, top-producing U.S. States more than doubled sweet potato production to meet growing international and domestic demand. This trend has plateaued since U.S. sweet potato production reached a record high in 2017.