Sweet potato export-readiness

There is a history of trade in fresh and processed sweet potatoes in response to the export market pull and the potential for import substitution, but not in the context of a formal export-readiness process. Export-readiness implies that major hurdles have been removed and that the sweet potato export process is progressing well on its journey to sustainability. An interest in expanding sweet potato production has also been demonstrated. 

Key takeaways

  • There are no set certifications or agencies that certify regional sweet potato export-readiness based on the criteria of quality specifications, cost-reduction, timeliness of delivery, and continuity of supply.
  • Based on the above criteria, some countries such as Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago can all be considered export-ready.
  • Jamaica currently produces the Beauregard sweet potato which is in demand and favoured in the US and in the UK.
  • Jamaica already exports its sweet potatoes and its government is working on expanding the infrastructure to increase export volumes.

Potential Export-Ready Countries

  • Jamaica is considered to be a country ready to export sweet potatoes. The government has been testing the Beauregard sweet potato, a fast growing and resilient kind of sweet potato. The objective is to encourage more exports.
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) is another export-ready country, as the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN) restructures its processes. SVG traditionally exports to Trinidad & Tobago but there is interest from exporters who hope to take the product to the UK.
  • The Trinidad and Tobago Agri-Business Association is aiming to validate production technologies that would increase the country's sweet potato production.
  • The Dominican Republic, being the region's largest sweet potato producer, is also export-ready, while sweet potato programmes exist in Saint Kitts and Nevis and in Antigua and Barbuda but are in their infancy.

Import substitution in the region

Root crops, and sweet potatoes, in particular, have been a traditional mainstay in the diet of the regional population. Substituting sweet potato imports provides an opportunity for stimulating local production, provided that the cost of production is right. Among these two producing countries, Antigua and Barbuda import significant quantities of sweet potato in terms of value, which are largely supplied by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

The use of domestically produced fresh or processed sweet potato to replace imports should be encouraged.

    2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Saint Kitts and Nevis US$ (Value) 16,265 17,817 7,322 11,100 7,042 15,239
  Tons 76 61.7 60.1 81.3 32.4 17.2
Antigua and Barbuda US$ (Value) 323,846 111,127 39,034 93,871 107,262 Not yet available
  Tons 56.443 14.694 4.468 9.029 10.571 Not yet available

Trade statistics – Import trends of fresh sweet potato - Stewart (2015, p. 67).


© USDA/Lance Cheung

Regional export

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines has traditionally shipped sweet potato to Trinidad and Tobago, as well as to Antigua and Barbuda.

Extra-regional export

The expansion of the existing seasonal sweet potato export markets to the UK provides an opportunity for growth. These primary export markets are much bigger than the supply potential of the countries in the region, even at maximum production growth thrust. These export markets are economically lucrative. Nevertheless, other smaller, complementary markets (import substitution, local, tourist, regional and processing) should not be ignored from a food security, regional economic development and social and environmental impact perspective.

Quantity of sweet potato exported by volume (2011–2015)









Antigua and Barbuda 0 1 0 0 0 0 1
Barbados 3 1 0 0 0 1 0
Dominica 67 24 31 20 26 N/A N/A
Dominican Republic 11,779 8,247 10,491 11,149 8,556 9,013 8,938
Guyana 5 45 10 0 0 8 66
Jamaica 1,016 1,007 1,149 1,433 1,503 1,332 1,276
Saint Kitts and Nevis 2 3 2 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Saint Lucia N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A 2 N/A
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 2,191 1,621 1,627 2,121 1,923 950 914
Trinidad and Tobago 1 1 N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A


Download your Investment Guide here

The Finance Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST) has partnered with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) to develop an investment guide for the sweet-potato sector in the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) region for financial institutions (FIs), with financial support from the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (APP).


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