New recommendations and standards for sweet potatoes should facilitate international trade

Raw sweet potato, partically cut

Sweet potato is a tropical plant which, despite its name, is not related to potatoes.

November 21, 2023
While most of the United states is more focused on sweet potato recipes - as sweet potatoes are a tradional Thanksgiving dish - Industry is focused on the trading standards.

Sweet potato is a tropical plant which, despite its name, is not related to potatoes. It is a nutritious food rich in vitamin A and C, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

Furthermore, sweet potatoes are also a drought-tolerant vegetable, valued for their resilience in diverse agricultural systems.

The adaptability of sweet potatoes to different climates and their ability to thrive in a variety of soil types have contributed to their widespread cultivation.

The adoption of a UNECE recommendation for sweet potatoes this week will ensure product quality and fairness in trade, thus enhancing sustainable development outcomes. The standard was initiated by Germany and South Africa.

Sweet potatoes are becoming an important part of our cuisine: mashed sweet potatoes (American cuisine), sweet potato fries (international fusion), sweet potato gnocchi (Italian cuisine), roasted sweet potato and chickpea salad (Mediterranean cuisine).

According to the Observatory of Economic Oversight, the main exporters in 2022 were the United States, followed by the Netherlands, Egypt, Spain, Viet Nam, Canada, Belgium, Japan, and Portugal.

Cyril Julius, Chairperson of the UNECE Specialized Section on Standardization of Fresh Fruit and Vegetables, and Chief Operations Officer of the Perishable Produce Exports Certification Agency of South Africa:
 
"Sweet potatoes play a significant role in food security and poverty alleviation. It is a staple food for millions of people around the world, especially in developing countries, providing a source of affordable and accessible nutrition."

"It has significant importance in trade as well, creating income opportunities and contributing to economic growth in agricultural sectors. Having a standard for sweet potatoes levels the playing field, allowing growers, exporters and importers to trade with confidence."
Over the past 5 years the value of trade in sweet potatoes has increased by 33% globally, from USD 564 million in 2018 to USD 753 million in 2022.

The value of sweet potato imports to the European Union increased by 40% in the same period from USD 278 million to USD 388 million.