Sweet Potato farming in India

There are some foods which are highly underrated. Sweet potatoes are one of them. We all talk about food security but when it comes to the foods which actually are easy to grow, nutritious and require very less resource, we turn around for something else. 

We can’t reason with human nature. Sweet potatoes are actually tasty. But then the total number of consumers is actually low. The markets are all in small pockets and often concentrated during specific periods. Navrathri fasts in Gujarat and Maharashtra are one such times when sweet potatoes are consumed a bit more widely than other times. As a matter of fact, sweet potatoes are rarely purchased by home makers but once in may be a year or sometimes twice, unless its an occasion which requires its presence in the table.

What makes things even worse for Sweet potato farmers is that there are no processed food products which are famous , made of sweet potatoes. Heard of Sweet potato wafers or sweet potato chips? Na… I haven’t either. Though there are a range of products from Flour, Noodles, juices and even sweet potato candies in the international market, the indian market has very few products made from sweet potatoes and even if they did, they don’t really sell.

So, If you are a farmer planning to cultivate sweet potatoes, you may need to focus on harvesting right when the festival of navratri coincides. That’s the only time when you are assured of a good price in maharashtra and gujarat. For other states, the prices will go up and down during certain festivals and you will have to find out when. 

If you intend to focus on Just sweet potato farming throughout the year, most economists will advise against it. While some specific times will give you good profit, there will be others which will drive you to losses. Sweet potatoes have a decent shelf life but don’t expect more than a week in normal conditions. When refrigerated they can last up to 3 months but this requires a cold storage unit which can be very expensive!

Sweet potato farming in Maharashtra & Gujarat

Sweet potatoes are most profitable in these two states. Navrathir is celebrated with pomp and women fast during these 9 days of navratri. And what do they eat during fasts? Potatoes, sweet potatoes, sago, Bananas and fruits among a small list of other things. Sweet potatoes sell at a moderate price during the first week of navratri. Farmers can expect anywhere between 25 to 35 Rs per kilo 

Coinciding your harvest to 2-3 days prior to navrathri and extending it to the first week of navratri is a wonderful idea. Getting your produce in the market for the entire week gives you a higher chance of profit than selling it all in one day. Also find out the price in the nearest market and surrounding Bigger markets. Sometimes the extra effort to transport your produce a 100 kilometers away may just be worth your while and profits may be significant. Other times, selling in the local market will be the best thing to do. Do your research a day prior to the harvest. Always have transportation ready.

sweet potato harvest and storage

The harvesting of sweet potatoes is one of the few times when manpower is required. While land preparation can be mechanised, sowing is manual but requires very less effort. Most farms have sprinkler irrigation or flood irrigation which require little to no manual intervention. But when it comes to harvesting sweet potatoes, they are a manual process and require that humans do the work, at least in india. 

Even accompanied with tractors to dig up the land around the plants, Sweet potatoes still need to be manually picked. Most farmers do the entire process manually. Once picked, they need to be washed and cleaned, removing all the dirt from the surface of the sweet potatoes and then sorted, put in crates to be sent to the market . 

Sweet potatoes get the best rates when they are cleaned and harvested fresh. The longer you keep it stored, there is a chance that it loses weight. Traders like fresh produce and give better rates for produce that’s been just harvested.

Storage for sweet potatoes do exist but considering the per day rate of cold storage, the rates are not feasible for farmers. For instance, Storing 1 Tonne of Sweet potato for one month in cold storage could cost anywhere between 15,000 Rs to 22,000 Rs. Considering the price of sweet potatoes to be anywhere between 25 to 35 Rs during peak season, you will be spending more than half the price of the produce on just storage, which clearly is not profitable.

Can you Grow sweet potato grow at home

Even with Limited space, you could grow enough sweet potatoes at home for your daily needs. What’s more interesting is that they require minimal care, almost always have a full ground cover, keeping your area beautifully green, the leaves make a great salad and they can be cultivated year round in the right space. All you need is 4-5 square feet of land area to cultivate year round Sweet potatoes for your needs. 100% organic, nutritious and grown at home.

Sweet Potato plants are not house plants. They do not do so well in full shade. Sweet potatoes can grow well in partial shade or full sun. so keeping your plant in full shade is usually not recommended, specially if you are interested in a good yield. 

Is sweet potato farming profitable

Its all about timing. Harvesting sweet potatoes right when the market requires the product is key. If you produce sweet potatoes when demand is low, expect to hit roc bottom price and even hard to break even. On the contrary, you could sell one tonne of produce overnight in the right time and season. Profit or Loss depends entirely on time, location and of course quality of your produce. Do not overlook quality because competition is always around the corner. The better the quality of your produce, the better the price you get and more profit.

Plant SaplingsUsually Free 
Land Preparation5,000
Labour 3,000
Fertilizers & Pesticides7,000
Miscellaneous Cost3000
Total Cost28,000
Yield Per acre8000 Kilo
Price Per Kilo (average)25
Gross Returns2,00,000
Net Profit172000

Sweet potato farming is Profitable if you get the right price. But imagine doing the same crop and harvesting off season. The product price could range anywhere between 2-5 Rs per Kilo. this means a total return of 16000 rs to 40,000 Rs. You will need a price of 3.5 Rs per kilo to break even. Anything above that is profit. But a profit of at least 25,000 Rs is expected to consider sweet potato farming profitable. If you get anything below the price of 7 Rs per kilo will be considered a loss in most cases.

In general, most farmers will break even with sweet potato farming. A 90 day crop with high yield , minimal investment is a great crop. If you can get the price of 25 to 30 Rs per kilo then you can consider the crop a massive profit.

Areas of Sweet Potato Farming in India

  1. Uttar Pradesh: Uttar Pradesh is one of the leading states in sweet potato cultivation. The districts of Gorakhpur, Ballia, and Azamgarh are known for their significant sweet potato production.
  2. West Bengal: West Bengal has a considerable area under sweet potato cultivation. Regions like Bardhaman, Hooghly, and Murshidabad are important sweet potato-growing areas in the state.
  3. Odisha: Sweet potato farming is prevalent in Odisha, particularly in the districts of Balasore, Mayurbhanj, and Koraput.
  4. Bihar: Bihar is also a major producer of sweet potatoes. The districts of Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, and Samastipur are known for their sweet potato cultivation.
  5. Karnataka: In Karnataka, sweet potato farming is practiced in regions like Dharwad, Gadag, and Belagavi.
  6. Tamil Nadu: Tamil Nadu is one of the states with significant sweet potato cultivation, with areas like Salem and Erode being major producers.
  7. Andhra Pradesh: Andhra Pradesh also has considerable acreage dedicated to sweet potato cultivation, especially in regions like East Godavari and West Godavari.
  8. Maharashtra: In Maharashtra, sweet potatoes are grown in districts such as Pune, Satara, and Solapur.
  9. Assam: Sweet potato farming is practiced in certain areas of Assam, contributing to the state’s agricultural diversity.
  10. Other Northeastern States: Besides Assam, other states in the Northeastern region, such as Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland, also engage in sweet potato cultivation.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) – Sweet Potato Farming in India

1. What is sweet potato farming, and where is it practiced in India? Sweet potato farming involves the cultivation of the root vegetable “sweet potato” (Ipomoea batatas) for its nutritious and starchy tubers. In India, sweet potato farming is practiced in various states with suitable agro-climatic conditions, including Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh.

2. What are the ideal climatic conditions for sweet potato farming in India? Sweet potatoes thrive in warm and tropical climates. The ideal temperature range for cultivation is between 24°C to 30°C. They require well-drained sandy-loam soil with good organic matter and moderate rainfall for optimal growth.

3. When is the best time to plant sweet potato in India? The best time to plant sweet potato in India varies based on the region. In most parts of the country, planting is done during the pre-monsoon season, which is around February to March. However, in some regions, it can also be planted during the monsoon season.

4. How long does it take for sweet potatoes to mature after planting? Sweet potatoes typically take about 3 to 4 months to mature after planting. However, early-maturing varieties may be ready for harvest within 2 to 3 months. The time to maturity also depends on the climate and growing conditions.

5. How are sweet potatoes harvested, and when is the harvesting season in India? Sweet potatoes are harvested when their foliage begins to yellow and wither, typically 90 to 120 days after planting. The harvesting season in India varies based on the planting time, but it is generally between June and November.

6. What are the primary pests and diseases that affect sweet potato farming in India? Sweet potato cultivation faces challenges from pests like sweet potato weevils, whiteflies, and aphids. Diseases such as sweet potato viruses, fungal rots, and leaf blights can also impact the crop. Proper pest and disease management, including the use of resistant varieties and cultural practices, help mitigate these issues.

7. How is the post-harvest handling of sweet potatoes done? After harvesting, sweet potatoes are cured for about a week in a warm and humid environment to enhance their flavor and sweetness. They are then cleaned, graded, and stored in well-ventilated spaces to extend their shelf life.

8. What are the various uses of sweet potatoes beyond direct consumption? Sweet potatoes are a versatile crop with various uses. They are used for direct consumption in various culinary preparations, such as sweet potato fries, chips, pies, and curries. Sweet potato starch and flour are also used in the food industry for making noodles, snacks, and baked goods.

9. How does sweet potato farming contribute to India’s agriculture and food security? Sweet potato farming plays a significant role in India’s agriculture and food security. It is an important crop for small and marginal farmers, as it requires minimal inputs and can grow in diverse agro-climatic conditions. Sweet potatoes provide a valuable source of nutrition and energy, particularly in regions with food scarcity and malnutrition.

10. Is sweet potato farming environmentally sustainable? Sweet potato farming is considered environmentally sustainable due to its ability to grow with minimal water and pesticide requirements. It also contributes to soil fertility through its root nodules, which fix nitrogen. As a drought-tolerant crop, sweet potatoes have less pressure on water resources compared to some other staple crops.

11. Can sweet potatoes be grown in home gardens in India? Yes, sweet potatoes can be grown in home gardens in India. They are well-suited for container gardening or in raised beds. With proper care and suitable growing conditions, home gardeners can enjoy a fresh supply of nutritious sweet potatoes.

12. What are the potential challenges faced in sweet potato farming in India? Sweet potato farming faces challenges related to market access, post-harvest losses, availability of quality planting material, and awareness among farmers about improved agronomic practices. Addressing these challenges through research, extension services, and market linkages can enhance sweet potato production and benefit farmers in India.

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