Arkansas tomato growers contend with cool, wet spring - The Packer

Arkansas tomato growers contend with cool, wet spring

05/07/2014 09:12:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Cool and wet conditions could affect the size and volumes of Arkansas tomatoes, which should begin shipping in the first half of June.

Hermitage, Ark.-based Randy Clanton Farms expects to begin harvest about June 10, right on time, said owner Randy Clanton.

But the cool, wet spring will likely have other effects on the deal, he said.

“My gut tells me we’re going to be shorter. This has been a spring for the books.”

Fruit size will likely be smaller than usual in the first or second pick of the season, Clanton said. After that, size and quality should be excellent.

“We’ve had ideal fruit set weather the past week,” Clanton said May 6. “The stuff coming on looks pristine and there don’t seem to be any problems.”

Boca Raton, Fla.-based Gem Tomato & Vegetable Sales Inc. expects to begin marketing Arkansas-grown Triple M tomatoes about June 10, later than some years but on par with others, said Gary Margolis, Gem’s president.

Triple M’s harvest should last about six weeks.

Unusually cold wehereather singed some plants, and a wet April wasn’t ideal, but overall, the effects on quality and volumes should be minimal, Margolis said.

“They’re growing like gangbusters now,” Margolis said May 6. “Everything looks good.”

As it has been for the past several years, Triple M’s varietal mix in 2014 will consist of about 80% rounds and 20% romas, Margolis said.

Clanton Farms’ mix also will be similar to last year, with about 250 acres of rounds, 100 acres of romas and 25 acres of grape tomatoes expected, Clanton said.

Prices may not be high at the beginning of the Arkansas deal, but movement should be good, which bodes well for Triple M and other shippers in the state, Margolis said.

“There should be good flow — reasonable prices and good movement. Markets have softened quite a bit this spring, but it puts Arkansas in good condition.”

On May 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $8.30 for 25-pound cartons of 5x5 and 5x6 vine ripes from Mexico, down from $10.95-13 last year at the same time.

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