Sweet Potatoes are Gaining as Regular Potatoes are Losing Ground

U.S. sweet potato use per capita has increased significantly during the last decade and was estimated at nearly 7 pounds in 2012, up almost 50 percent over 2002 levels. People recognize the health benefits of fiber and many nutrients contained in sweet potatoes and, of course, sweet potato fries have become extremely popular.

According to the Univ. of Kentucky, “sweet potatoes gained some popularity as a ‘lower-carb potato’ in the early 2000’s, and high antioxidant levels in sweet potato skins and other health benefits contributed to consumption staying strong after the low-carb diet craze. Sweet potato consumption is highest among Americans over 60, and sweet potatoes may have special appeal to aging, health-conscious baby boomers.”

source: North Carolina Sweet Potatoes

U.S. Sweet Potato per capita consumption has been rising nicely:
4.2 pounds in 2000
5.2 pounds in 2009
6.3 pounds in 2010
7 pounds in 2012

As a comparison, American’s eat about 50 pounds per year of all types of potatoes, including processed and fresh baked.

Do you know where your sweet potatoes come from?

North Carolina has been the number one sweet producing state since 1971. According to NC Sweet Potatoes, “Its hot, moist climate and rich, fertile soil are ideal for cultivating sweet potatoes, averaging at nearly 50% of the U.S. supply. According to the USDA, North Carolina harvested nearly 50,000 acres of sweet potatoes in 2010, the same amount produced by California, Louisiana and Mississippi combined – also top producing states.”

Sweet potatoes were formerly thought of as a poor man’s food, but now are realized to be a nutrient lovers food. I like to put cubed sweet potatoes in Indian cooking dishes with other vegetables such as cauliflower over rice, or, in pasta.

One lady is even reported to have done a sweet potato diet. She claims to have lost 90 pounds while eating one sweet potato per day topped with cinnamon, along with other healthy foods.


1. http://www.uky.edu/Ag/CDBREC/introsheets/sweetintro.pdf

2. http://www.thepacker.com/fruit-vegetable-news/foodservice/Sweet-potato-consumption-on-the-rise-228037231.html

3. http://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/sweet-potato-industry/

4. http://online.wsj.com/articles/the-humble-potato-falls-from-grace-1407867055

Do you know the difference between Coconut Palms and Palm Oil Trees?

This seems like a reasonable question to ask, because there has been an explosion of coconut water for sale over the past few years. Do people know where the coconuts used to make their coconut water are coming from?

Thanks to dutchplantin.com, here are two definitions of oil palm vs. the coconut palm.

Oil palm
The oil palm is mass cultivated on large plantations. The largest production countries are Indonesia (6 million hectares) and Malaysia (4 million hectares). The only product obtained from the fruit of the tree (the palm stone) is palm oil, in a quantity worldwide of more than 48 million tons. The oil is used for, among other things, margarine, oil for frying, soap, biodiesel and to generate electricity.

Coconut palm
The coconut palm is mainly cultivated by local farmers in Indonesia (2.6 million hectares), the Philippines (2.3 million hectares) and India (1.9 million hectares). Due to the relatively small scale of cultivation and the involvement of the local population, this activity forms an intrinsic part of these societies. Numerous products are produced from the coconuts which grow on the trees – coconut milk, coconut oil (worldwide 3.3 million tons), coconut fibres (for rope, mats, brushes and mattresses) and cocopeat. Our coir pith is therefore essentially a by-product from the traditional fibre industry in Asia.

We all know about the huge land use destruction of rain forests for palm oil production which has been a problem in recent years. I hope that the growing use of coconuts from coconut trees has far less of an environmental impact. If small scale cultivation of coconut palms make up most of their sources, then, I am curious about the distribution and marketing operations and how that has been attained rather quickly of late. Anyone?

According to Michael Moss, of the NYTs, coconut water entered the American market 10 years ago and global sales now are $400 million a year. Customers believe that it contains numerous health benefits, but that claim is very doubtful.

As for me, I never drink canned or bottled beverages which contain sugar (and coconut water does), but I can’t help but notice all of the cans of coconut water in the stores and I am also noticing more recipes which call for coconut water and coconut milk as if it were a valuable and contributory ingredient. I’d call it a fad.

U.S. Farmland Price Change Map 2005 to 2013

source: Rabobank
As this map so clearly demonstrates, the recent run up in farmland prices had a lot to do with ethanol policy which had a sudden upward push on corn prices and a ripple effect on the other commodities. It especially added value to land with “potential” – potential to be plowed (think Dakotas) or irrigated (think Nebraska), maybe even land with the potential for warmer weather due to a changing climate (think Dakotas again), all with a guaranteed profit through crop insurance (and direct payments) financed by your friendly taxpayer. In comparison to the rest of the nation, the Midwest corn belt saw the greatest movement upward in farmland prices since 2005.

With government policies supporting both the production and the income of the corn crop for growers, cropland purchasers over the past seven or eight years have seen the income potential from cropland as a much better bet than zero bound interest rate agreements. And, in an efficiency-driven system that rewards the big for getting bigger, some land owners took their recent year’s farm profits and reinvested them to buy neighboring farmland when available.

As I see it, buying farmland is a very long term hold, so given that policy can change, there are no guarantees that these investments will remain profitable, especially given the complicating issues of changing government regulations and subsidy systems, pollution concerns, water, super weeds, rising input costs, qualified labor, rural demographic issues, and consumers who are revolting against GMO crops and foods. It has always been my opinion that cropland investors, through investment vehicles, are naive about the nature of both farming and investing in farmland – if they are thinking it is a sure bet.

Ernie Goss, in his July report, tells us that the bank CEOs which he interviewed expect land prices to fall by 4.8 percent over the next 12 months, an increase from a rate of decline of 3.2 percent that was expected earlier this year.

This all comes as no surprise, as commodity prices have fallen in price with this season’s bumper crops. Farmland will follow.

Hint: The best future indicator for prices of farmland and commodities themselves can be summed up in two words: Biofuels policies… in the U.S. and everywhere.

Because, in the developed nations, we are still dealing with overproduction, hardly a surefire indicator for buying cropland.

Only from biofuels policies are nations creating new demand to utilize a significant percent of this excess crop production and drive up prices enough to cover their input costs. Through biofuels induced domestic consumption, through the export of biofuels and biofuel related products, and through the tweaking of biofuels policies from year-to-year, perhaps a “swing demander” has emerged for the commodity crops.