Speaking as a panelist during the market opportunities workshop, de Shouwer gave some background on the evolution of the U.S. tomato market:
- Around 40% of fresh tomatoes sold at retail in the U.S. are now greenhouse, compared with negligible amounts in the early 1990s.
- Mexico’s protected horticulture over the past six years grew by 248%, compared to Canadian production expansion of 28% and U.S. expansion of 17%.
- Greenhouse tomatoes now account for around 20% of U.S. fresh tomato supply.
In particular, de Shouwer mentioned a development on the horizon that might be the 1-ton tomato in the living room.
Before Fidel Castro took over, Cuba was a key tomato supplier to the U.S., with the industry only taking root in Florida when trade stopped between the U.S. and Cuba.
Castro is 86. His baby brother Raul — 81 years of age — has been in charge since 2006. Neither has a lot of shelf life left.
When the Castro era sunsets, business between the U.S. and Cuba may well resume, and another player may re-enter the already competitive U.S. tomato market.
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