RUSKIN, Fla. — After a slow start, Florida’s fall tomato volume is beginning to increase.
The deal started a little later than normal with smaller volume.
Doug OhlemeierWorkers grade mature green tomatoes at the Homestead-based DiMare Co.’s Ruskin packinghouse in early November. After a season opening that saw lighter than normal yields, central Florida grower-shippers are increasing volume. Because of heavy September rains, tomato yields are down by about 25%, said Tony DiMare, vice president of the Homestead-based DiMare Co., which also grows and packs from the Palmetto-Ruskin region.
Typically, Florida growers begin harvesting mature-greens in late October and hit volume in mid-November.
This year, however, volume isn’t expected to begin until late November, grower-shippers report.
As the deal progresses, each day is bringing higher quality and larger sizings and yields, DiMare said in mid-November.
“Though we are seeing below-normal yields for this time of the year, quality has been excellent,” DiMare said.
“This is the time of the year when we typically make some of our best crops going forward. Late November and December are typically good months for excellent quality and good volume.”
DiMare characterizes the season as normal.
Up until early November, buying brokers were loading Florida and California tomatoes.
Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of Fort Myers-based Weis-Buy Farms Inc., finished sourcing California and said interest is shifting to Florida for its traditional November and December window.
“We are getting into better-sized tomatoes,” Weisinger said in mid-November.
“For the Thanksgiving business, we seem to be OK. Up until now, I’ve been disappointed with the amount of extra larges and the sizes they are. The tomatoes have been small for their sizes. They’re just beginning to get to the point to where they’re big enough.”
Weisinger said growers are harvesting more 50s and high 40s size tomatoes and said demand for the mediums will increase as the deal produces fewer smaller sizes.
He said he expects markets to remain strong through late November.
In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for 25-pound cartons of loose mature-green 85% U.S. No. 1 or better from central and south Florida: $15.95-16.95 for 5x6s, $13.95-14.95 for 6x6s and $11.95-12.95 for 6x7s with No. 2s selling for $13.95-14.95 for 5x6s, $11.95-12.95 for the 6x6s and $10.95 for the 6x7s.
The USDA reported the same prices for mature-greens from Quincy’s northern Florida deal.
Last year in mid-November, the USDA reported those same cartons from central Florida selling for $13.95 for 5x6s, 6x6s and 6x7s with No. 2s selling for $11.95 for 5x6s, 6x6s and 6x7s.
In late October, Palmetto-based West Coast Tomato Inc. began harvesting mature-greens and romas.
Bob Spencer, vice president and sales manager, said harvesting hit promotable volume early and called quality typical.
“We have been able to start shipping them to the eastern half of the U.S.,” he said in mid-October. “As the California deal winds down, we will be able to send them west too.”
Spencer said the Quincy crop, which normally begins by early October and runs through mid-November, was bringing high quality but not heavy volume.
He said the August and September rains cut into Florida’s early volume.
In mid-November, Weisinger said romas were in shorter than normal supply.
The USDA in mid-November reported 25-pound loose cartons of extra large from Florida selling for $14.95-15.95.
Last year in mid-November, the USDA reported $13.95-14.95 for the 25-pound cartons for extra large.
For cherry tomatoes from central Florida, the USDA reported $10.95-11.95 for flats of 12 1-pint baskets, higher than last year in mid-November when those flats sold for $6.95-8.95.
On central Florida grape tomatoes, flats of 12 1-pint containers with lids marketed for $9.95-11.95 while 20-pound cartons of loose grapes sold for $19.95-21.95.
That’s higher than during the same time last season from central Florida when the USDA reported those same flats selling for $7.95-8.95 and reported $13.95-14.95 for the cartons.