The overall value for exported sweet potatoes is 3.5 times that for exported yams. In addition, the average unit price for sweet potatoes is about 53.5% higher than the average for yams.
Revenues from exported sweet potatoes increased by 18.7% over the 5-year period starting in 2017 but slowed via a 2.1% upturn from 2020 to 2021. In contrast, international sales of exported yams expanded by 49.5% since 2017 and by 5.8% compared to one year earlier in 2020.
Sweet potatoes are distinctly different vegetables from yams, albeit some people use the terms interchangeably. Sweet potatoes have a softer, reddish skin as well as a creamier interior and typically a darker interior than yams. Yams are starchy with a rough, brown skin and are well-known foods in Latin America, West Africa, the Caribbean and some Asian countries.
Geographic Insights for Exports of Sweet Potatoes and Yams
The top 5 exporters of sweet potatoes by overall sales are the United States of America, Netherlands, Egypt, Spain and Vietnam. Combined, those leading exporters generated over two-thirds (69.8%) of globally exported sweet potatoes.
At over three-quarters (76.5%), the 5 major exporters of yams account for a more concentrated percentage of worldwide exports by value. The main shippers of yams are Ghana, Jamaica, mainland China, United States of America and Japan.
From a continental perspective, 39% of exported sweet potatoes were sold by Europe trailed by international shippers in North America (30.3%) and Asia (15.3%). Smaller percentages originated in Africa (10.1%), Latin America plus the Caribbean (5.1%) and Oceania (0.4%) led by Australia.
The leading continent for exporting yams is Latin America plus the Caribbean (32.4% of globally exported yams). In second place were suppliers in Asia (25.6%), Africa (24.4), North America (10.9%) and Europe (6%). A tiny 0.6% of yam exports came from Oceania led by Tonga.
In addition to total export sales for sweet potatoes and yams, this article delves into the lowest and highest average unit prices per ton as well as the major export countries as measured by shipment weight.
For research purposes, the Harmonized System (HS) code is 070420 for fresh, chilled, dried or frozen sweet potatoes. The HS code is 070430 for fresh, chilled, dried or frozen yams.
Top Exporters of Sweet Potatoes by Global Sales
Listed below are the most lucrative countries for supplying sweet potatoes 2021 ranked by total international sales.
Also shown is percentage that each country represents in terms of globally exported sweet potatoes.
- United States: US$188.5 million (26.9% of sweet potato exports)
- Netherlands: $160.6 million (22.9%)
- Egypt: $54.2 million (7.7%)
- Spain: $49.1 million (7%)
- Vietnam: $37.5 million (5.3%)
- Canada: $23.8 million (3.4%)
- Japan: $21.3 million (3%)
- Portugal: $17.4 million (2.5%)
- China: $14.1 million (2%)
- Laos: $13.4 million (1.9%)
- Belgium: $11.74 million (1.7%)
- South Africa: $11.68 million (1.7%)
- Indonesia: $11 million (1.6%)
- United Kingdom: $10.2 million (1.5%)
- Honduras: $9.7 million (1.4%)
By value, the above 15 main export countries represent 91.7% of globally exported sweet potatoes in 2021.
The fastest-growing top exporters of sweet potatoes from 2020 to 2021 were Honduras (up 104.7%), Laos (up 35%), Portugal (up 27.2%), Honduras (up 22.1%) and Egypt (up 17.7%).
Year over year, there were 5 export decliners namely the United States of America (down -0.5%), mainland China (down -9.7%), Spain (down -11%), United Kingdom (down -18%) and Vietnam (down -39.2%).
Top Yam Exporters by Global Sales
Listed below are the best countries for selling yams on international markets during 2021.
Also shown is percentage that each country represents in terms of globally exported yams.
- Ghana: US$48.5 million (24.2% of yam exports)
- Jamaica: $40.1 million (20%)
- China: $22 million (10.9%)
- United States: $21.8 million (10.9%)
- Japan: $21.1 million (10.5%)
- Costa Rica: $10.9 million (5.4%)
- Brazil: $7.2 million (3.6%)
- Colombia: $6.6 million (3.3%)
- Belgium: $5 million (2.5%)
- Netherlands: $4 million (2%)
- India: $2.8 million (1.4%)
- Vietnam: $2.5 million (1.2%)
- Italy: $1.34 million (0.7%)
- Philippines: $1.26 million (0.6%)
- Tonga: $771,000 (0.4%)
By value, the above 15 main export countries represent 97.6% of yams exported in 2021. That percentage belies a more concentrated cohort of international suppliers compared to the major exporters for sweet potatoes.
The fastest-growing top exporters of yams from 2020 to 2021 were Vietnam (up 444.9%), Philippines (up 115.4%), Netherlands (up 17.8%), mainland China (up 17.1%) then Brazil (up 16.9%).
The 5 decliners weighing down growth among top exporters of yams were Italy (down -0.1%), Tonga (down -5.5%), India (down -11.6%), Colombia (down -15.6%) and the United States of America (down -19.9%).
Lowest and Highest Unit Prices for Sweet Potato Exports
In 2021, the world’s average unit price for sweet potatoes was US$835 per ton. The average unit price for sweet potatoes fell by -9.4% from an average $921 per ton for 2020.
The top exporter of sweet potatoes, United States of America, charged $695 per ton in 2021.
Ranked in ascending order, listed below are the countries exporting sweet potatoes with the lowest unit prices in 2021.
- Malawi: US$51 per ton (down -50% from 2020)
- Mali: $57 per ton (down -16.2%)
- Nicaragua: $76 per ton (down -69.4%)
- Zimbabwe: $162 per ton (up 62%)
- Serbia: $208 per ton (down -51.5%)
- New Caledonia: $278 per ton (2020 data unavailable)
- Argentina: $304 per ton (down -1.9%)
- India: $314 per ton (down -6%)
- Peru: $364 per ton (up 11%)
- Bangladesh: $393 per ton (down -47.9%)
- Honduras: $427 per ton (down -22.1%)
- Malaysia: $440 per ton (up 4.5%)
- Saint Vincent/Grenadines: $462 per ton (up 0.9%)
- Thailand: $463 per ton (up 5%)
- Laos: $527 per ton (up 25.8%)
Posting the strongest reductions in unit price per ton since 2020 were Nicaragua (down -69.4%), Serbia (down -51.5%), Malawi (down -50%) and Bangladesh (down -47.9%).
The following countries shipped exported sweet potatoes at the highest average unit prices.
- Finland: US$32,000 per ton (up 146.2% from 2020)
- Fiji: $6,000 per ton (2020 data unavailable)
- South Korea: $5,658 per ton (up 38.9%)
- New Zealand: $4,941 per ton (up 35.1%)
- United Arab Emirates: $4,444 per ton (up 237.9%)
- Bulgaria: $3,809 per ton (up 11.7%)
- Japan: $3,796 per ton (up 3.5%)
- Estonia: $3,000 per ton (down -14.3%)
- Central African Republic: $3,000 per ton (2020 data unavailable)
- Hong Kong: $2,904 per ton (down -0.8%)
- Taiwan: $2,889 per ton (up 7%)
- Iceland: $2,667 per ton (down -11.1%)
- North Macedonia: $2,273 per ton (up 7.7%)
- Jamaica: $2,254 per ton (down -27.5%)
- Uganda: $2,169 per ton (up 715.4%)
Posting the greatest advances in terms of average unit price hikes from 2020 to 2021 were Uganda (up 715.5%), United Arab Emirates (up 237.9%), Finland (up 146.2%), South Korea (up 38.9%) then New Zealand (up 35.1%).
Lowest and Highest Unit Prices for Exported Yams
In 2021, the world’s average unit price for yams was US$449 per ton–roughly 46% lower than the global average unit price for sweet potatoes.
The global average unit price for yams shrank by -64.1% from an average $1,252 per ton during 2020.
The top exporter of yams, Ghana, charged $143 per ton in 2021.
Ranked in ascending order, listed below are the countries collecting the lowest average unit prices for exported yams in 2021.
- Zambia: US$38 per ton (2020 data unavailable)
- Laos: $74 per ton (2020 data unavailable)
- Ghana: $143 per ton (down -27.8% from 2020)
- Guyana: $154 per ton (down -78%)
- Afghanistan: $159 per ton (down -23.6%)
- Togo: $172 per ton (down -8%)
- Pakistan: $222 per ton (2020 data unavailable)
- Indonesia: $250 per ton (down -75%)
- Benin: $250 per ton (2020 data unavailable)
- Congo: $268 per ton (up 10.3%)
- Zimbabwe: $286 per ton (2020 data unavailable)
- India: $314 per ton (down -19.3%)
- Tanzania: $333 per ton (up 28.6%)
- Denmark: $364 per ton (2020 data unavailable)
- Nicaragua: $393 per ton (up 147.2%)
Posting double-digit reductions in average unit price per ton for yams since 2020 were low-cost providers India (down -19.3%), Afghanistan (down -23.6%), Ghana (down -27.8%), Indonesia (down -75%) and Guyana (down -78%).
The following countries shipped exported yams charging the greatest average unit prices.
- Hong Kong: US$13,333 per ton (up 21.2% from 2020)
- South Korea: $12,000 per ton (up 71.4%)
- Taiwan: $5,667 per ton (up 9.4%)
- Sweden: $5,000 per ton (up 400%)
- United Arab Emirates: $4,000 per ton (up 756.5%)
- Japan: $3,114 per ton (down -6.5%)
- Jamaica: $2,768 per ton (down -6.9%)
- Vietnam: $2,710 per ton (up 59.5%)
- Singapore: $2,708 per ton (up 0.1%)
- Uganda: $2,613 per ton (up 1240%)
- Fiji: $2,500 per ton (up 11.1%)
- Portugal: $2,410 per ton (down -6.1%)
- Germany: $2,364 per ton (up 18.2%)
- Panama: $2,000 per ton (up 233.3%)
- Haiti: $2,000 per ton (down -60%)
Recording the most robust advances in average unit prices among the relatively high-cost suppliers were exporters in Uganda (up 1,240% from 2020), United Arab Emirates (up 756.5%), Sweden (up 400%) and Panama (up 233.3%).
See also Best Tofu Exports by Sales, Average Unit Prices & Weight, Top Exported Spices by Sales, Weight and Unit Value, Top Salmon Exports & Imports by Country and Top Vitamins Exports & Imports by Country
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook Field Listing: Exports – Commodities. Accessed on November 12, 2022
Food & Wine, The Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes Is Structural Racism. Accessed on November 12, 2022
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on November 12, 2022
Wikipedia, Sweet potato. Accessed on November 12, 2022
Wikipedia, Yam (vegetable). Accessed on November 12, 2022