Florida’s fall tomatoes bring higher prices

11/07/2011 04:13:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

PALMETTO, Fla. — The opening of Florida’s fall tomato season is bringing lighter fall volume and slightly higher prices.

The season, which typically begins in mid- to late October with small harvesting in central Florida’s Palmetto-Ruskin region, started a couple of weeks later than usual after heavy September and October rains.

Grower-shippers say buyers shouldn’t expect to see promotable volume until close to Thanksgiving.

Mulberry-based East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc. finished Virginia harvests in late October and began Florida production in early November, two weeks later than normal, said Batista Madonia Jr., vice president of sales and operations.

“This is a typical fall crop,” Madonia said in early November. “It won’t be heavy tonnage, but will have very good quality. We have received several calls from our customers. The first thing out of their mouths is how good they (the tomatoes) look. That’s a nice feeling.”

Victor Uribe, grape tomato general manager at Pacific’s Wimauma packing shed, said Pacific was harvesting in Quincy in northern Florida and the Myakka City region in central Florida.

Homestead-based DiMare Co. began running Ruskin mature greens Oct. 31, a couple of weeks later than normal.

Tony DiMare, vice president, said central Florida shouldn’t produce any volume on all the varieties — mature greens, grapes, romas and cherries — until the week of Nov. 21.

Bob Spencer, vice president and sales manager of West Coast Tomato Inc., characterizes this year as a typical fall season.

“So far, we’ve been pleased with our production,” Spencer said in early November. “The tomatoes look good. It looks like each week we go forward into November. The yields will increase and the product will look even better.”

He said demand should increase as central California finishes production. Spencer said California packers stopped production by early November and planned to begin final season shipments by the middle of the month. He said he expects a normal transition to Florida.

Spencer quoted $11.95 for 5x6s mature greens and called prices typical for early fall.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Nov. 4 reported 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens 85% U.S. No. 1 or better from central Florida selling for $12.95 for 5x6s, $11.95 for 6x6s and $10.95 for 6x7s. The USDA reported similar prices for mature greens from Quincy.

That’s higher than last season in mid-November when the USDA reported $9.95 for 5x6s and $8.95 for 6x6s and 6x7s.

For cherry tomatoes from central Florida, the USDA in early November reported $12.95-13.95 for flats of 12 1-pint baskets, higher than last year in mid- November when those flats sold for $6.95-7.95.

On central Florida grape tomatoes, flats of 12 1-pint containers with lids marketed for $8.95-10.95; 20-pound cartons of loose grapes sold for $17.95-19.95, higher than last year’s $7.95-8.95 for the clamshells and $14.95-15.95 for the bulk cartons.

Because of insufficient volume, the USDA in early November wasn’t reporting prices of central Florida roma tomatoes. The agency said buyers should expect the first F.O.B. report by mid-November.

Mexican roma tomatoes crossing at Otay Mesa, Calif., sold for $8.95-10.95 for 25-pound cartons for extra large, $8.95-9.95 for large and $7.95-8.95 for medium.

Last fall, romas from central Florida in early November sold for $13.95 for 25-pound cartons for extra large, $12.95 for large, $11.95 for medium and smalls selling for $9.95.



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