Sweet potatoes

Australian Sweetpotato Growers Inc represent the biosecurity interests of sweetpotato producers and the industry. They are members of Plant Health Australia and signatories to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed. Their responsibilities include:

  • biosecurity planning and implementation at the national and farm levels
  • liaising with federal and state governments on trade issues
  • funding and supporting biosecurity initiatives
  • participating in national committees and response efforts in an emergency.

Industry overview

In 2016–17, sweetpotato production was valued at $93 million (LVP) with exports valued at $1.8 million. Sweetpotatoes are available all year round in Australia with total production of around 100,000 tonnes. There are around 80 commercial producers with farm sizes ranging from 10 to 200 hectares, with most in the 15–80 hectare range.

Queensland is the biggest producer with over 87 per cent of production, mainly around Bundaberg. The second major production area is around Cudgen in northern NSW. Sweetpotatoes are also grown in Mareeba, Atherton and Rockhampton in Queensland; Murwillumbah in NSW; and Perth, Carnarvon and Kununurra in WA.

Three types of sweetpotato are grown in Australia, categorised by skin and flesh colour.

The gold variety (rose-gold skin, gold flesh) dominates the Australian sweetpotato industry with over 90 per cent of production. Red category (red skin, white flesh) makes up around eight per cent, with purple (white skin, purple flesh) making up the remainder. The majority of sweetpotato production is consumed domestically with under one per cent exported.

Commercial growers purchase pathogen-tested planting material every year, a measure that has almost doubled marketable yield per hectare. The pathogen testing scheme is reinforced by industry supported research into virus (and other disease) diagnostics and management, as well as enhancing effective distribution and multiplication of clean planting material.

The sweetpotato industry became a signatory to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed in late 2017 and has started to develop a national biosecurity plan.

Annual value of sweet potato production, 2011–17

Distribution of sweet potato production by state and territory, 2016–17 (based on LVP)

The high priority pests of sweet potato have yet to be determined. They are usually identified during the development of an industry biosecurity plan, which the Australian Sweet Potatoes Growers Inc. is in the process of doing.