Healthy demand for North Carolina sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes from the North Carolina region are enjoying good demand both domestically and overseas. Growers are currently preparing to ship product as other regions in Europe slow down. They are pleased with the quality of the crop this season.

"We had an excellent North Carolina season," said Kelley Precythe, of Southern Produce Distributors. "Yield was average but it was one of the highest quality crops we've seen in a long time. Demand is really good in North America and packers are gearing up for the busy Thanksgiving season. North Carolina continues to see growth in the export market and now we are preparing to begin shipping our export crop as Egypt is wrapping up. We've also heard that Spain has had some issues too, so demand in Europe is forecast to be strong."

Murasaki demand growing in United States
On the domestic front, Precythe noted that demand for the Murasaki variety has been increasing in recent years. Traditionally marketed as an Oriental variety, the purple sweet potato has been picking up in popularity. 

"Southern Produce has over 12,000 acres of land, on which we grow all the major sweet potato varieties," he said. "We grow organic, the conventional Covington, Bonita which has a white flesh, and the Murasaki, that has purple skin and white flesh. Domestic demand for the Murasaki has been growing. It has traditionally been sold as an Oriental sweet potato but in recent years, a broader customer base has been buying them due to their color and distinctive nutty flavor. Sweet potatoes in general are being discovered for their super food qualities and this is helping drive demand."

Automated optical sizer helps boost production
Southern Produce's massive acreage means it has to move a lot of product. Production has been given a boost with the recent installation of a new automated optical sizer. The company is not new to the automated sizers and the new machine is a replacement for an older type.

"We've recently installed a new automated sizer," Precythe said. "It works by an optical sensor that detects different sizes and kicks them out accordingly. The sweet potatoes are then transported by conveyor to boxes which are subsequently packed onto pallets. Sweet potatoes are a high-cost, labor-intensive crop and this helps keep those costs down. Southern Produce were one of the first companies in the region to install such automated equipment and we see it as a necessity when moving this amount of product."
For more information: 
Kelley Precythe
Southern Produce Distributors
Tel: 1-800-688-9267

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