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NC-grown Sweet Potatoes Huge Success in International Markets


Few North Carolina-grown products have achieved international success like the sweet potato.  North Carolina grows the most sweet potatoes of any state in the country, and Michelle Wong of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s International Marketing Division talks about some of the countries that have sweet potatoes from the Tar Heel State:

“We started exporting sweet potatoes into Europe, and we’re seeing a good success in the UK and we’re seeing a good amount going into France, we see a lot of sweet potatoes going into Poland and Germany.  Now, as we learn that each market is a little different as far as getting familiar with our products and accept our products, so we are continuing to explore the market that is maybe lower to recognize and accept our products.  Those markets are Poland and Scandinavia,  and markets like that, and we are trying to enter Italy, where we are trying to promote those products, as well.”

Right now, most of the exports are fresh product, but Wang says processed sweet potatoes are starting to gain some recognition:

“Right now, the majority of them are fresh, washed sweet potatoes going into those markets, unprocessed.  But, we’re also seeing fresh frozen sweet potato fries that are starting to gain a little bit of market share in Europe right now.”

Wang says NCDA isn’t done when it comes to finding new markets for NC sweet potatoes:

“Export opportunities for sweet potatoes will continue into Europe, even though we are exporting to some of the market like the UK and Germany, we believe that there’s still great market potential there, especially the eastern part of Germany, and we’re going to continue to push for that, and some other parts of Europe like Scandinavia and Italy, that aren’t really that familiar with our sweet potatoes, including eastern Europe.  They’re not really familiar with our sweet potatoes, the consumers aren’t really that well educated and aware of our sweet potatoes, we see opportunities there, as well.”

Right now, the majority of exports are to Europe, but Wang says they’ll start working on opening up Asia to the North Carolina-grown sweet potato:

“I believe that we have the potential of our sweet potatoes going into Asia as well.  Of course, we’ve introduced our sweet potatoes to Canada, but I believe there’s potential in that market, as well.”

Michelle Wang with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s International Marketing Division.'

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.