With tobacco, the longtime staple of Southeastern agriculture, on the wane, farmers are looking for alternatives. One option may be stevia, a native South American plant that produces a natural no-calorie sweetener.
Late last month, a leading US-based global producer of stevia announced that it is expanding production of the crop to Georgia and North Carolina.
Currently, it’s only grown domestically in California, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
Sweet Green Fields LLC of Bellingham, Wash., which produces and markets sweeteners derived from stevia to food and beverage companies, has signed a contract with a Southeastern Georgia farmer to grow stevia on about 100 acres, according to the publication.
Most of the world’s stevia is being grown in China, but the US is a logical fit for the crop given the health-conscious nature of American consumers and their desire no-calorie sugar substitutes, said Hal Teegarden, president of Sweet Green Fields.
“The largest user country in the world today is the United States,” he said. “We believe there’s an interest in having a domestically grown available product.”