In mid-December, markets were beginning to strengthen on some Florida tomatoes, and cool weather in Mexico could mean double-digit markets beginning in January.

Following a period of slow movement around Thanksgiving, weekly shipments of Florida rounds were robust heading into the winter holidays, said Bob Spencer, vice president and sales manager of West Coast Tomato Inc., Palmetto, Fla.

“Volumes have been pretty strong the past three weeks,” Spencer said Dec. 14. “There’s a lot coming out of Florida.”

Spencer hopes holiday pull will translate into stronger demand for those big volumes.

“We’re hoping to see some improvement in prices next week as we head into Christmas,” he said.

Larges and mediums in particular were low-priced in mid-December, Spencer said. Markets for extra-large tomatoes, however, were beginning to strengthen.

Hot weather in August and September kept fruit from sizing, said Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of broker Weis-Buy Farms Inc., Fort Myers. By the week of Dec. 19, however, larger fruit should start shipping, he said.

Demand will likely start to increase around Christmas, Weisinger said.

Tomato markets expected to strengthen On Dec. 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $7.95-8.95 for 25-pound cartons of loose mature green tomatoes 5x6 from Florida, down from $8.95-9.95 last year at the same time.

Cartons of 6x6s were $5.95-6.95, down from $8.95-9.95 last year.

Quality issues that plagued Florida growers in September and October are a thing of the past, Spencer said, although he pointed out the irony that good quality often means abundant volumes, which, as has happened this fall, can depress markets.

“You never get paid for pretty tomatoes,” Spencer said.

Nogales, Ariz.-based grower-shipper Ciruli Bros. expects to begin harvest in Mexico Dec. 21, with pallet-sized volumes available until Jan. 1, when supplies begin increasing, said Chris Ciruli, partner.

Volumes for Ciruli Bros. will peak in February and March, he said.

The company’s start will be similar to last year, Ciruli said. An earlier start had been anticipated until unseasonably cold temperatures struck, he said.

Shipments from some Northern Mexico districts will be lower than usual because of the cold, Ciruli said, which should translate into fairly strong markets in early January.

“It won’t be a high start, but prices should be in the low double-digits,” he said.

The quality of Ciruli Bros. Mexican-grown product in mid-December looked good, Ciruli said.