By on 11.23.15 in Economic Data

North Carolina’s agricultural industry contributes $78 billion to the state’s economy according to the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Two of the state’s leading agricultural products—sweet potatoes and turkeys—will likely grace many tables this Thursday as individuals and their families celebrate Thanksgiving.

Here are a few fun facts about NC turkeys and sweet potatoes:


North Carolina is the second largest producer of turkeys, after Minnesota. The state’s turkey production was valued at more than $733 million in 2014.

29 million

The estimated number of turkeys that will be produced in North Carolina in 2015. With this level of production, North Carolina is expected to produce the second highest number of turkeys in 2015. The top 5 producing states in 2015 are Minnesota (40M), North Carolina, Arkansas (27M), Indiana (19.1M), and Missouri (18M).


The number of states where there are more turkeys than people. North Carolina has nearly three times as many turkeys as people.


The estimated increase in North Carolina turkey production between 2014 and 2015. Nationally, turkey production is down 4% from 2014, driven by large production declines in Minnesota (-12.1%) and Arkansas (-10%).

Turkey Production 2014 vs 2015

Sweet Potatoes

North Carolina leads the nation in sweet potato production and sold nearly $355 million worth of sweet potatoes in 2014.

1.6 billion

The number of pounds of sweet potatoes produced in North Carolina in 2014, a substantial increase from the 0.6 billion pounds produced in 2000. In large part, the significant increases in U.S. sweet potato production have been driven by production increases in North Carolina.


The share of U.S. sweet potatoes produced in North Carolina in 2014. Although North Carolina has long been the nation’s largest producer of sweet potatoes, this is the first time that a majority of U.S. sweet potatoes have been grown in North Carolina.


North Carolina’s estimated share of global sweet potato production in 2014.

Although North Carolina dominates U.S. sweet potato production, China is the clear leader in global sweet potato production. In 2013, nearly 85% of all sweet potatoes produced globally came from China.China produces most of world's sweet potatoes

A recent USDA report notes:

“While U.S. production has significantly increased, it still does not approach the volume of sweet potatoes produced globally. The sweet potato is widely cultivated in a number of developing countries, where it serves as a principal source of food and income for many of the world’s poorest and most nutritionally insecure peoples. Data from the United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicates that over 95 percent of the sweet potato crop is produced in developing countries (UN/FAO, 2014).”

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