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Festival features Abu Dhabi-grown food

Families from across the Emirates tried the nation’s finest veggies at the first edition of the ‘Mother of the Nation Festival’, which ran until April 2 alongside Abu Dhabi’s scenic Corniche Beach.

Families from across the Emirates tried the nation’s finest veggies at the first edition of the ‘Mother of the Nation Festival’, which ran until April 2 alongside Abu Dhabi’s scenic Corniche Beach.

Dishes made with fresh vegetables grown in Abu Dhabi were among the features of the festival, along with a series of exhibits, performances, and events across five outdoor activity zones.

In a press release, Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre communication manager Ahmed Al Suwaidi said the festival was an excellent opportunity to introduce Abu Dhabi families to the quality and freshness of locally grown products including vegetables, fruits, eggs, honey, and local dates.

The ADFSC’s commercial brand, Local Harvest, introduced visitors to the festival to dishes made with fresh eggplants, tomatoes and more, “further increasing the appetite for information on local produce in the Emirate.”

The Local Harvest sales tent offered families attending the festival an opportunity to inspect the quality and freshness of locally grown produce throughout the festival.

Locals sample sweet potato

Al Suwaidi said the tasting sessions proved popular at the festival and kicked off last Friday with a sampling session for sweet potatoes.

“On top of tasting good, sweet potatoes are well suited to the sandy soils of the UAE, are water efficient, easy to grow and produce high yields. This root vegetable is also nutritious, packed full of energy and vitamin A, is excellent as part of a diabetic diet and rich in antioxidants which have the potential to fight cancers,” he said.

“The sweet potato is also ideal for small hold farmers in the Emirates looking take advantage of opportunities arising from the growing demand for healthy food.”

Alongside the delicious sampling at the festival, the Abu Dhabi Farmers’ Services Centre also hosted a series of workshops aimed to bring an understanding of farming into the home, on topics such as the benefits of organic farming, hydroponics, and home gardening.

The festival was held to honour HH Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF) and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, with reflection on the hard work of the nation’s mothers and families to preserve “the authentic values and traditions of Emirati culture while embracing a multitude of others.”

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International Sweet Potato Week 2016 kicks off next Monday

Last year, imports of American Sweet Potatoes into Europe rose 35% on 2014, and with their increasing popularity In Europe, as in the US, are expected to increase further this year.

International Sweet Potato Week – taking place March 14 to 24 – will put the spotlight on the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and Poland.

An initiative of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission and the American Sweet Potato Marketing Institute, the week is designed to convince more consumers, chefs and culinary journalist to cook with sweet potatoes.

During the week, a wide range of information, including recipes, cooking methods and facts about sweet potatoes, will be shared via social media.

In the Netherlands and Belgium, the week will kick off with the attendance of the Agricultural Attache of the US Embassy in the Netherlands, Susan Philips.

Over the course of the week, importers, supermarkets, greengrocers and restaurants will give the sweet potato some extra attention in their displays and offer special prices for sweet potatoes as an added incentive for consumers to try them.

Sweet potatoes are rich in fibre, vitamins and beta-carotene, and are a diverse vegetable suited to consumption in different ways throughout the day, “from breakfast till dessert,” the weeks’ organisers say.

Last year, imports of American Sweet Potatoes into Europe rose 35% on 2014, and with their increasing popularity In Europe, as in the US, are expected to increase further this year. Thankfully, the storms which raged over the US did not cause as much damage as supply of this product is actually set to increase. According to recent figures from the USDA, the 2015/2016 sweet potato planted area is up 14%, and the harvest will be 5% above that of the previous season.

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Why and how the Chinese plan to eat more potatoes

China’s bid to make potatoes the country’s fourth most important staple crop – after rice, wheat and corn – is motivated by food security and sustainability concerns, explains Euromonitor International.

China’s bid to make potatoes the country’s fourth most important staple crop – after rice, wheat and corn – is motivated by food security and sustainability concerns, explains Euromonitor International in an article by contributing analyst Simone Baroke.

China is already the world’s biggest market for fresh potatoes. The London-based market-research firm’s data shows that with a volume of 39 million tons last year, it accounted for 23% of total global potato consumption.

But, explains Baroke, the Chinese Government “has decided that its people need to eat more potatoes in order ease pressure on the country’s scarce agricultural resources.” According to the article, by 2020 the area allotted to potato cultivation in China will be doubled to 10 million ha (100,000 km2).

“The data also show that on the whole fresh potatoes are not doing too badly in China. In 2014 they achieved volume gains of almost 6%, double the rate registered by overall starchy roots in the country. Sweet potatoes, the next most “dynamic” type of starchy root, mustered a sluggish 1%,” Baroke said.

Chinese Government efforts to enthuse consumers about potatoes include messages about their nutritional value on Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter), and the sharing of recipes and promotion of discussion of potatoes’ merits as an ingredient in various dishes.

Read the Euromonitor International article here.

 

 

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Baby food pushes up organic sweet potato sales in US

Sandi Kronick, CEO of Eastern Carolina Organics, (left) with Triple J Produce Sales manager Kristi Hocutt

Young mothers and pregnant women helped give birth to the growing market for organic sweet potato in the United States, says Sandi Kronick, CEO of Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO).

While she jokes that “kale pays the bills”, Kronick said sweet potatoes are the next most important item for ECO in terms of both value and volume, followed closely by blueberries.

Based in Durham, North Carolina, the farmer- and employee-owned firm markets and distributes wholesale Carolina organic farm produce to retailers, restaurants and buying clubs along the US east coast, even reaching Canada in the north and as far south as Florida. Now ten-years-old, it expects turnover of US$4 million this year, up from $3.8 million last year – all from sales within North America and about a fifth from sweet potatoes.

Baby food has long provided major demand for sweet potato and Kronick said demand for the organic version has delivered greater demand for organic sweet potato. “A lot of organic sweet potato acres go to baby food,” she said. Even so, she said less than 5 percent of total sweet potato production in the US is currently organic.

Kronick said ECO is also seeing a lot of growth – with increases in value but not necessarily volumes – in greenhouse tomatoes, in particular, and in greenhouse cucumbers and lettuce.

Exports to the UK, France and the Netherlands

One of the about 100 farms that ECO works with is Triple J Produce, located in Sims, North Carolina, which predominantly grows sweet potatoes and has about 1,000 acres of conventional cultivation for this crop and 100 acres of organic.

Sales manager Kristi Hocutt said that despite the higher costs, such as due to non-chemical weed control, the company has been increasing its organic production “because customers have been asking for it.”

Triple J supplies stores including Whole Foods in the US and exports sweet potatoes to European countries including the UK, France and the Netherlands, mainly in 6kg and 18kg boxes.

Its own sweet potato production this year will be 800,000 bushels, along with an additional 400,000 from partner growers, of which 65,000 bushels will be organic. Its 2013 crop was 500,000 bushels, of which 38,000 were organic.