Florida freeze may slow February tomato movement - The Packer

Florida freeze may slow February tomato movement

01/11/2012 05:16:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Courtesy University of Florida County ExtensionAn early January freeze burned these tomatoes in a field north of Immokalee, Fla. Though many fields went relatively unscathed, shippers say buyers should expect lighter mid-February tomato volume. Early January freezing weather in Florida growing regions may cause some small gaps in the state’s tomato production.

In mid-February, buyers should expect a gap or lighter volume from Immokalee, Fla., the state’s winter tomato hub, said Jon Esformes, operating partner and chief marketing officer for Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd., Palmetto, Fla.

Esformes characterized tomato damage from the overnight hours of Jan. 3-4 as mild to moderate.

“It was not nearly as severe at our farms as it might have been,” he said Jan. 11. “There will be a gap due to bloom drop from the cold weather. It didn’t get cold enough in the whole state for the East Coast to be affected.”

Esformes said the shortage could run up to two weeks, but the duration and severity depends on winter weather.

He said he heard about some tomato and vegetable fields north of Immokalee that received moderate to severe freeze damage.

Growers didn’t report additional vegetable damage in mid-January, said Lisa Lochridge, director of public affairs for Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, Maitland.

“We haven’t heard anything significantly different than the reports we got initially after the freeze,” she said. “There was moderate damage in the specific pockets where it’s usually colder.”

Sue Harrell, director of marketing for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, Dover, said growers spraying fields with water helped the state’s strawberries escape serious damage.

“They did very well,” she said Jan. 11. “The fields don’t look as pretty because of the frost. They were beautiful before. It’s only cosmetics, though. The plants look a little raggedy but the berries are sweet and very good. It wasn’t a big interruption.”

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