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Despite weather challenges, Nash Produce still optimistic about sweet potatoes

Each December, Nash Produce makes the pilgrimage from Nashville, NC to New York City to take part in the New York Produce Show, and this year the company will operate Booth No. 437, answering questions on how two hurricanes affected the 2018 sweet potato crop.

“Nash Produce was prepared for the 2018 volume decrease, due to farmers planting less acres of sweet potatoes,” said Tami Long, director of marketing and business development for the company. “Then two hurricanes hit North Carolina. It will take months to determine how much the weather affected the sweet potatoes. Problems can begin inside the sweet potato and take time to show on the outside.”

2018-Leggit-Harvest-4 The show is an important one for the company as it allows Southern-based Nash Produce the chance to visit with a large number of buyers, counterparts and their bosses as many company headquarters are located in the Northeastern part of the U.S.

“It attracts a diverse group from the headquarters. This gives increase opportunities to discuss projects and promotions with a wide variety of people,” Long said. “We’re looking forward to discovering how companies are incorporating produce into new products.”

Long spent some time in the field just a few weeks ago, and the sweet potatoes looked fantastic so far, though the company is still checking fields for flood damage. Nash Produce is already shipping the new crop, and plan on continuing until the 2019 harvest is completed.

“The good news is that consumers want sweet potatoes. The push to eat healthier has made this super food very popular,” Long said. “As people learn that a sweet potato is more than just a pie, the recipe options are endless. Since sweet potatoes are naturally sweet, they offer a healthier option to a recipe. While demand was high in 2018, the price was not. This resulted in several farmers not planting sweet potato crops in 2018, because they were not making money.”

Thankfully, prices have started to increase, which the industry needed.

While the sweet potato harvest will be the number one question people ask about—and unfortunately there are just no solid answers yet—Long also expects to be talking about the Farm Bill, immigration and tariffs.

“If farmers have to absorb high tariffs and low prices, we could all have a problem,” she said.

Also at the booth, Nash Produce will introduce its convenience carry bags for the Bonita (tan skin, white flesh) and Murasaki (purple skin, white flesh) sweet potatoes.

“Consumers do not know what to do with these sweet potatoes, so they stick with the traditional sweet potato. As a result, they are missing out on really great sweet potatoes,” Long said. “The Bonita sweet potato has the texture and look of a regular baked potato. Perfect way to trick children into eating the much healthier sweet potato. The purple skin on the Murasaki makes it the most nutritious of the sweet potatoes. And as a bonus, Murasaki sweet potatoes add a great color to any dish.”

Nash Produce continues to explore new product possibilities, but the timing on any new launches will depend on the 2018 harvest.

“We continue to look for ways to work with our customers to promote Nash Produce sweet potatoes,” Long said. “Until we see how the harvest goes, Nash Produce is concentrating on our current customers. We ship 365 days a year, and this will be maintained in 2019.”