Mexican and Florida tomato markets remained depressed in early April, but shippers are cautiously optimistic about stronger demand later in the month.
A warm March in Florida boosted yields and compressed harvests that were supposed to be staggered closer together, leading to a glut of product at the beginning of April, said Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of Fort Myers, Fla.-based broker Weis-Buy Farms Inc.
The effect on markets, Weisinger said, has been keenly felt.
“It’s a very flat situation,” he said April 2. “We’re buying for some customers at or below production costs.”
On April 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $5.95-6.95 for 25-pound cartons of loose mature green tomatoes 5x6s from Florida, down from $21.95-23.95 last year at the same time.
But with Florida harvests bunched together at the beginning of spring, that will mean lower volumes as April progresses, Weisinger said. In addition, some blight pressure should make a dent in yields in coming weeks, he said.
By about the week of April 9, volumes should start trending down, he said.
“There’s always good to go with the bad,” Weisinger said. “We’ll have a skip between the Eastern deal now and the Eastern deal in June.”
By the end of April, Florida growers should be enjoying a stronger market, one which should last into June, Weisinger said.
Volumes out of Sinaloa, Mexico, will be heavy the first three weeks of April for Nogales, Ariz.-based Farmer’s Best International LLC before starting to tail off the week of April 23, said Jerry Wagner, the company’s director of sales and marketing.
April volumes should be slightly higher than last year for Farmer’s Best, Wagner said. The company will be shipping Mexican vine-ripes, romas and grape tomatoes in volume during the month, he said.
“April will be a big push for us.”
Quality should be outstanding throughout the month, Wagner said.
“We couldn’t ask for better weather down there, and the fruit is sizing very well,” he said.
Wagner is hoping for stronger markets as April progresses.
“Consumption always takes a huge jump in April” as the weather improves, Wagner said.
Mexican field production will likely tail off after Easter, particularly on romas, said Jim Cathey, general manager of Nogales-based Del Campo Supreme.
That could give markets a much-needed boost, he said. That said, Leamington, Ontario, greenhouse production is getting an early start this year, Cathey said. And like Mexico, Leamington acreage is up this season.
That surge of Canadian production could offset decreasing volumes in Mexico. But Cathey is sure of one thing.
“The market has nowhere to go but up,” he said. “They can’t get any cheaper.”