Homestead, Fla.-based DiMare Co. expects to wind down its Homestead deal in mid-April and its Immokalee, Fla., harvest a week later, said Tony DiMare, vice president.
In the week of April 8, DiMare Co. plans to begin shipping grape and cherry tomatoes from the Ruskin, Fla., area. Romas and rounds should follow beginning April 20.
Weis-Buy Farms Inc., Fort Myers, Fla., doesn’t expect significant volumes out of Palmetto/Ruskin until about May 1, said Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer.
The company’s Homeland and Immokalee deals were beginning to phase out in early April, Weisinger said.
Mexico’s field-grown volumes were declining after their seasonal peak, with excellent quality and smaller sizing likely for the balance of the deal, said Jaime Chamberlain, president of J-C Distributing Inc., Nogales, Ariz.
With the exception of a few cold spells that set back Ruskin/Palmetto crops slightly, Florida growers have enjoyed dry, warm weather this season, DiMare said.
“The quality has been excellent,” he said. “We’ve had good growing conditions.”
Because of bad weather in mid- to late February, volumes would likely be affected in April, Weisinger said. Fruit damaged after knocking against stakes in windy weather meant shippers were having to grade harder, he said.
“I don’t think we’ll see a pileup of tomatoes like in previous years.”
Tomatoes that made the grade in early April, however, were of excellent quality, Weisinger said.
Markets for smaller fruit were weakening in April as more volume came on, but markets for larger fruit was still very strong heading into the Ruskin deal, DiMare said.
Grape and roma markets also were strong in early April.
“Demand has been good,” he said.
On April 2, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $11.95 for 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens 5x6 from Florida, up from $5.95-6.95 last year at the same time.
After a sluggish start to April, Weisinger expected markets to pep up the week of April 8.
“It’s been real quiet price-wise — the after-Easter hangover,” he said. “Next week should see a lot of action.”
DiMare said that as of early April, the effects of a new suspension agreement between Mexico and the U.S., which raises the floor prices of Mexican tomatoes, has been minimal.
“I think it’s still too early to determine. I don’t know if it’s had much of an effect,” he said. “Look at the market pre-suspension, it was a $12-14 market. Since then the market in Florida has come down to $8-10.”
Weisinger, however, did think the new agreement was already making itself felt in the market.
“Any secondary product can’t be sold,” he said. “Stuff that’s just fair won’t bring the minimum. In previous years, you could do something else with it. Now, you have to send it home.”
Chamberlain said he hadn’t heard of Mexican shipments being turned back as of April 3.
“Fortunately, I’ve been able to sell at above the minimum.”
Next season, he said, is when the full effect of the new agreement will be felt.
“I think it will be tough, but something we have to live with,” he said. “It’s going to be very, very tough for a lot of consumers to swallow that they’ll have to pay more.”