EastFruit analysts draw attention to an interesting trend in the Russian vegetable market – while prices for potatoes grown in Russia are record low in the recent seasons and Russia even became a large exporter of these tubers, Russian consumers are taking keen interest in alternative products – yams and sweet potatoes. As a result, imports of sweet potatoes and yams to Russia are growing much faster than imports of other categories of vegetables.
In 2020 along, when consumers’ incomes in the Russian Federation decreased, the imports of these expensive tubers more than doubled. The imports of sweet potatoes reached 2.3 thousand tons, an increase by 120%, and the import of yams amounted to 55 tons, an increase of 130% compared to 2019. Over the past five years, the imports of sweet potatoes to Russia has increased 12-fold, and the imports of yams – eight-fold.
These niche tubers in Russia are gaining more and more popularity, despite the fact that they are exotic products for local consumers. Gastro bloggers and fitness bloggers are the key drivers for increasing consumption. They actively share information on healthy diets and new dishes with exotic types of products on social networks.
You can buy sweet potatoes in the capital of Russia today at retail prices ranging from 380 to 500 rubles per kg ($ 5.0-6.5 US dollars per kg). Yams is sold for one tuber, not per kg, because, in most cases, a yam tuber is more than 1 kg in size and weighs, on average, one and a half to two kg. If we recalculate the price of yams into kilograms, we get about 600-700 rubles / kg or $ 7.9-9.0 US dollars per kg.
Sweet potato is pleasing consumers with a variety of colors of tubers and tastes, which makes it possible to use it in a wide variety of dishes. From the point of view of its value for a healthy diets, sweet potatoes are superior to potatoes, because they contain a lot of fiber, iron, calcium, starch, glucose, minerals and vitamins. Yellow, red and orange varieties of sweet potatoes have a high content of carotene.
Interestingly, sweet potatoes can be grown in Russia as well, while most yams types can only be grown in the tropics and sub-tropics. The first producers of sweet potatoes have already begun to appear in Russia, but the pioneer of sweet potato breeding in the region is Ukraine, where there are already many producers this tuber. Ukraine even exports small amounts of sweet potatoes to the EU countries. There are sweet potato producers both in Georgia and Moldova. In Ukraine, they even come to the need to create sweet potato processing.
The demand for sweet potatoes is growing not only in Russia, but all over the world, which stimulates production – after all, prices for sweet potatoes remain attractive. China is the leader in the production and export of sweet potatoes in the world.
Yams are generally grown in the tropics and subtropics, with the main producers and consumers in sub-Saharan Africa. Yams are rich in vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B6, manganese, starch and fiber. Yam is also low in fat but high in polyunsaturated fatty acids and sodium, which makes it good for the heart. In general, yam has been actively gaining popularity outside Africa in recent years, and the trends in its import into the Russian Federation are another confirmation of this.
The main supplier of sweet potatoes to Russia is Egypt, which accounts for exactly half of all Russian imports. Honduras and Israel also supply large volumes of sweet potatoes to the Russian Federation. Slightly less sweet potatoes are imported from Guatemala, China and Vietnam.
Fresh yam is supplied to Russia mainly by the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa – Ghana and Nigeria. A small batch of these tubers entered the Russian market in 2020 also from China.
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