"Sliced sweet potato" ------ Photo Credit:
Sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) is consumed widely in CARICOM countries with per capita consumption being higher among the major producing countries. As a result, the volume of exports as a percentage of total production is generally small. There are two basic types of sweet potato on the market:
The moist-flesh varieties are also known as dessert-types and account for most of the output in the US. While varieties produced in the Caribbean are the ‘dry-flesh’ types which may be yellow or white in flesh colour and are most often used as a source of carbohydrate. With regard to health benefits, sweet potato has a comparatively high content of vitamins A, C and antioxidants that can help prevent heart disease and cancer, enhance nutrient metabolism, bolster the immune system and even slow aging by promoting good vision and healthy skin. It is also an excellent source of copper, manganese, potassium, iron and vitamin B-6.
A 2009 study commissioned by CARICOM on the competiveness and industry potential of the sweet potato found that a limited volume was traded regionally. The view was that this market was grossly underexploited since per capita consumption of the fresh tuber in a number of countries was low to very low. Also the production of value-added was found to be almost non-existent.
The study also highlighted several limiting factors:
Why invest in sweet potato production?
Despite some limiting factor, good potential for the development of a viable sweet potato industry in CARICOM exists: