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 developed 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)

Biosecurity planning provides a mechanism for the sweetpotato industry, government and other relevant stakeholders to assess current biosecurity practices and future biosecurity needs. Planning identifies procedures that can be put in place to reduce the chance of pests reaching our borders or minimise the impact if a pest incursion occurs.

The Biosecurity Plan for the Sweetpotato Industry outlines key threats to the industry, risk mitigation plans, identification and categorisation of exotic pests and contingency plans. For a copy, please contact PHA on 02 6215 7700 or email [email protected]

Exotic pests (not in Australia)

The following is a list of high priority exotic pests of sweetpotatoes. These pests were identified during the development of the Biosecurity Plan for the Sweetpotato Industry in consultation with industry, government and scientists. They have been assessed as high priority pests based on their potential to enter, establish, and spread in Australia (eg environmental factors, host range, vectors) and the cost to industry of control measures.

PHA has a range of fact sheets, contingency plans and diagnostic protocols relevant to these pests. Pest risk review documents are also available for some pests. Please contact PHA on 02 6215 7700 or email [email protected] for more information.

Endorsed National Diagnostic Protocols are available from the National Plant Biosecurity Diagnostic Network webpage.

Common name Scientific name EPPRD Category Fact sheet Contingency plan Diagnostic protocol
Citrus weevil Diaprepes abbreviatus
Cuban slug Veronicella cubensis
Giant African snails Achatina fulica and Achatina achatina FSFSCP
Lesser corn stalk borer Elasmopalpus lignosellus
Mild mottle of sweet potato Sweet potato mild mottle virus (Ipomovirus) FS
Potato tuber nematode Ditylenchus destructor
Root knot nematode Meloidogyne enterolobii syn. Meloidogyne mayaguensis FS
Sting nematode Belonolaimus longicaudatus
Sweet potato chlorotic stunt virus Sweet potato chlorotic stunt virus (Crinivirus) FS
Sweet potato mild speckling virus Sweet potato mild speckling virus (Potyvirus)
West Indian sweetpotato weevil Euscepes postfasciatus syn. Euscepes batatae FSFS