Fresh sweetpotato roots are highly perishable due to their high moisture content, sugar content, delicate thin skin, their high respiratory rate after harvest which produces heat and leads to softening of the roots. Shelf life varies by variety. Leaving the harvested storage roots in the sun for a short period is believed to help increase shelf-life, but it can also lead to moisture loss and softening.
The market value of fresh sweetpotato roots can be enhanced through improved post-harvest handling. For example, when the fresh roots are ready to be taken to the market, their value can be enhanced by improving their presentation through washing. Sweetpotato roots can also be sorted by hand to remove any rotting or otherwise unmarketable roots. Though grading and sizing is not commonly done in most parts of Africa, growers, wholesalers and retailers are being encouraged to practice root sorting to improve the value of the product on the market.
Proper packaging is an important step in the journey from the grower to the consumer. Across sub-Saharan Africa, sweetpotato is packed and transported in large sacks that are heavy to carry and are often dropped, causing bruises and other mechanical damage which results to rotting and reduces storage and shelf-lfie of the roots. This may discourage buyers.
Other ways of improving post-handling include labeling of produce to enable growers and others in the value chain to keep track of the source of the roots and the destination, and proper ways of transportation.