North Carolina Sweet Potato business updates

10/12/2011 09:45:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Burch Farms expands
storage, installs sorter

Faison, N.C.-based Burch Farms Inc. added 15,000 square feet of storage and 8,000 square feet of cooler space in July in anticipation of a bigger 2011-12 crop, said partner Jimmy Burch.

The extra space will give Burch Farms room to store an estimated 1.8 million bushels of sweet potatoes this season, up from 1.6 million bushels last year.

The expansion comes on the heels of a 35,000-square-foot-expansion in 2009.

“We’re trying to keep up with demand,” Burch said.

“We’ve been very blessed in this business.”

Also new at Burch Farms this year, the company has installed a new sorter to root out defective product before it gets to the sizer, Burch said.

The sorter will take the place of 10 people on the packing line and increase quality.

“It gives us a better finished product,” Burch said.

Farm Fresh rolls out new boxes, bags

Faison-based Farm Fresh Produce Inc. has introduced 6-kilogram and 40-pound boxes and 3- and 5-pound consumer bags, said Steven Ceccarelli, the company’s owner.

The 6-kilogram box is tailored for exports, Ceccarelli. Exports make up about half of Farm Fresh’s shipments.

Europe in particular is a good match for a smaller box, he said.

“A lot of European countries have weight restrictions, and everywhere you go in Europe, everyone has limited space.”

Small corner markets in cramped European cities, for instance, don’t have room for 40-pound boxes of sweet potatoes, Ceccarelli said.

Also, he said, to be competitive with rival shippers in Israel and Egypt, it helps to use the same size box they use — the 6-kilo box, he said.

Farm Fresh’s new 40-pound box will be used for domestic and export sales, Ceccarelli said.

Some buyers in export markets, he said, prefer to repack potatoes — for them, the 40-pounder is a good option.

The 3- and 5-pound bags should sell particularly well around the holidays, when demand for bagged product picks up, Ceccarelli said.

He said he would love to ship the bags overseas, but it’s not plausible.

“If you have to repack them, the labor is a killer. If you’re shipping citrus, it’s a little more forgiving. Sweet potatoes are too much of a risk.”

Farm Fresh will pack its new consumer bags under its Farm Fresh label, but the company is open to private labels or whatever else its customers prefer, Ceccarelli said.

Godwin Produce
creates Facebook page


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