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Europeans gobbling up NC sweet potatoes

Posted June 22, 2015

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— It seems Europeans have developed a taste for North Carolina sweet potatoes.

State agriculture officials say demand for the bright orange tubers is growing overseas, and local farmers are trying to keep pace.

Sue Johnson-Langdon, president of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission, said her group has been busy promoting sweet potatoes in European supermarkets with great success.

Exports from the United States has grown from less than 50 million pounds per year in 2000 to about 300 million pounds now. And North Carolina is the largest grower of sweet potatoes in the nation.

“The whole entire industry has gotten larger,” Johnson-Langdon said. “It's not just a trend. This is sustained growth that we believe will last.”

Thomas Joyner, president of Nash Produce in Nashville, certainly hopes so. Workers at his farm are busy filling boxes with sweet potatoes destined for restaurants and for shipments to Europe.

“They're very pleased with the product we send them,” he said. “They like the consistency of the size and the shapes.”

Joyner said business is booming at his company, which is growing up to 20 percent a year.

“We ship sweet potatoes 52 weeks a year,” he said. “We hope people eat sweet potatoes 52 weeks a year.”

He said the proposal to convert U.S. Highway 64 to an interstate connecting Raleigh with Norfolk would help the industry grow even more because it would provide a direct link to the port in Norfolk.

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  • Ben Sanders Jun 23, 2015
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    "He said the proposal to convert U.S. Highway 64 to an interstate connecting Raleigh with Norfolk would help the industry grow even more because it would provide a direct link to the port in Norfolk."

    It's a 2 hr drive from Nash County to Norfolk, half of which is already interstate. Just how much would a more direct link help? Maybe save an hour of drive time and 40-50 miles per round trip? Seems pretty immaterial considering the amount that's being exported.

  • Tammy Abernethy Jun 22, 2015
    user avatar

    Great story on sweetpotatoes - thank you for getting the word out. But sweetpotatoes are roots not tubers.