For Farm Fresh Produce Inc., which is based in Faison, NC, sweet potato production and sales were the basis for domestic growth and international market development. The firm has expanded its fresh produce export offerings, but sweet potatoes will remain its core business.
Farm Fresh ships between 800 and 900 40-foot containers of sweet potatoes a year. About 600 of these containers are exported. The firm has “a large network of growers” who pack the “Farm Fresh” brand, and all Farm Fresh products are GlobalGAP-certified.
Steven Ceccarelli, Farm Fresh's owner, said his firm has taken advantage of its international connections to greatly expand its fresh produce export offerings. Farm Fresh is now exporting California pomegranates and exporting “a lot” of Florida grapefruit. The firm is also exporting hard squash, green onions, blueberries and cherries to Europe. The firm sources blueberries from North Carolina, New Jersey, Michigan and Canada. Canada is also an export destination for many Farm Fresh products.
Produce grown on the West Coast for export to Europe is cross-docked at Farm Fresh’s North Carolina facility before being shipped through East Coast seaports. This cuts the transit time to 14 or 15 days versus shipping down the Pacific Coast and through the Panama Canal, which is a 30-35 day voyage.
“We’re trying to expand the commodities we ship in the summer and spring,” he said.The domestic and global sales of Bell peppers, Napa and green cabbage are among the commodities “we offer to customers. It’s interesting to grow and offer more products.” The wide Asian vegetable line has grown to involve between 100 and 150 loads per summer. The company ships about 75 container-loads of Bell peppers in the summertime.
“We will have a lot of new added commodities this year. We’ll be more involved in the seasonal deal in North Carolina, plus diversifying year round.”
Ceccarelli said produce buyers prefer the continuity of year-round suppliers of products “rather than having five in one year.”