From Colruyt and OKay

First sweet potatoes from Belgian soil go on sale

The first Belgian sweet potatoes will be on the shelves of Colruyt and OKay from 28 November. According to the supermarket, this is a first. It concerns a test project of Bart and Anja Nemegheer of De Aardappelhoeve in Tielt, West-Flanders. Growers of the Reo Veiling and BelOrta have also planted sweet potatoes for Colruyt Group for the first time. Combined, they have seven hectares. 

Sweet potato grower Bart Nemegheer of De Aardappelhoeve in Tielt, West-Flanders.

In Belgium, the sales of sweet potatoes are on the rise. They’re often imported from the US or Africa, and hardly ever from Europe. “But cost of transport is high, and it’s less sustainable,” says grower Bart Nemegheer of De Aardappelhoeve. “So I thought: what if we grew them here? You’d have fresh supply daily, close to home.” But growing a tropical plant here, is that possible? “Our climate is only getting milder,” Bart explains. “The variety we use, Beauregard, does well here. Moreover, the sandy / loamy soil in this region is ideal for sweet potatoes. The roots can grow straight down in the soft soil. Despite a cool summer, the harvest is successful. We just harvested a bit later, in October.”

Pioneering work
Bart and Anja Nemegheer aren’t the only ones who started growing sweet potatoes. Other vegetable growers in Belgium are also starting to work on, what Bart calls, pioneering work. The sweet potato isn’t in the same family as the regular potato. “Planting, fertilising, grubbing up: it was all new to me,” Bart says. “The harvest in particular requires a different approach. The leaves first have to be removed, so that the roots come loose.Only then can they be grubbed up. But our own potato harvester would damage the peel of the sweet potato, so we had one altered.”

A sweet potato from Belgian soil.

A first for Colruyt and OKay
For Lutgard Massaer, buyer of sweet potatoes for Colruyt Group, the Belgian sweet potato clearly has an added value: “I’ve been buying sweet potatoes from Senegal, the US and Spain for years. The product is obviously on the rise. That’s why we gladly accepted the proposal of De Aardappelhoeve to set up a test project together.” Combined with the volume supplied by the growers of Reo Veiling and BelOrta, customers can go to Colruyt and OKay for the first Belgian sweet potatoes throughout December and early in January (depending on availability). “I closely followed the production in Belgium. If the test is successful, the production will be expanded next season.”

For more information:
Edingensesteenweg 196
1500 Halle, Belgium
T: +32 (0)2 345 2345

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