FitzGerald to sell sweet potatoes

Young plant-grower FitzGerald Nurseries has spotted an opportunity in the grow-your-own market to offer sweet potato plants in 2010.

The Kilkenny-based grower and micropropagator is to sell the EU-certified organic plant material for the first time. It has signed an exclusive mail-order contract with Peterborough-based company Lead the Good Life (LTGL).

This is the first time FitzGerald has offered an edible crop but owner Pat FitzGerald said the route to market and end consumers are no different to its usual business.

"We (growers) make boxes for ourselves but I don't see this as any different from what we normally do," he said. "Before this grow-your-own trend I had a good inkling that it was about to happen so we have been working on it since 2007."

The nursery has been trialling the crop since spring 2008, both on site and at LTGL. FitzGerald said he is expecting to sell in excess of 100,000 plants and is looking to hear from interested retailers.

He explained that the choice of variety was crucial and he took advice from US growers. The Beauregard variety was selected because it is ideal for allotment and organic gardeners and can be grown under cover or outside in the South East.

FitzGerald added: "We are already looking at a few other types of edible crops but they have to be in the added-value end of the market. You have to add interest and dietary value otherwise it is not going to be worth our while."

He explained that sweet potato ticked all these boxes and was increasingly being recognised for its role in a healthy diet. LTGL will be marketing the sweet potato from January 2010.

Managing director Peter McDermott said: "We have been testing them and they are fantastic. We have already had significant interest from our customers. The trend towards grow-your-own has never been stronger and I believe that one of the things people are looking for is crops that are unusual, tasty and different."

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