Arkansas tomato crop dodges severe weather

05/04/2011 09:39:43 AM
Andy Nelson

Arkansas tomato growers dodged extreme weather in late April and looked forward to excellent quality and ample volumes when shipments begin in early June.

Courtesy Gem Tomato

Arkansas growers dodged a severe weather bullet in April, said Gary Margolis, president of Gem Tomato & Vegetable Sales Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., marketer of Arkansas-grown Triple M tomatoes.

“The crop at this stage of advancement is as good as or better than I’ve seen in a long time,” Randy Clanton, owner of Hermitage, Ark.-based Randy Clanton Farms, said May 2. “We’ve been blessed with weather up to now. Most of the storms have skipped around us.”

Rather than the deluges that have plagued areas of the region north and south of Arkansas tomato country, in the state’s southeast corner, storms have dropped an inch at most on fields, said Gary Margolis, president of Gem Tomato & Vegetable Sales Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., marketer of Arkansas-grown Triple M tomatoes.

“They (growers) have escaped, and they’re very optimistic,” Margolis said May 2. “Right now Triple M is in great shape.”

Triple M expects to start shipping about June 10, right on time, Margolis said. The deal should last through about mid-July, he said.

Clanton Farms expects to begin shipping in early June and to ship through July, Clanton said.

With the extreme weather in Missouri and Arkansas, Margolis said spent considerable time in late April and early May assuring customers that the Arkansas tomato crop was in good shape.

For customers weary of low volumes and spotty quality out of Mexico and Florida this winter and early spring, that’s music to their ears, he said.

“There’s a lot of interest for June promotions,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll see prices come down after these unprecedented highs, and movement go up.”

On May 3, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $10.95-12.95 for two-layer cartons of field-grown vine-ripe tomatoes 4x4 and 4x5 from Mexico, down from $18.95-20.95 last year at the same time.

High fuel costs will likely increase demand for Arkansas and other regional tomato deals this summer, Margolis said.

Arkansas also could help fill the void left by the closing of Oceanside, Calif.-based Oceanside Pole Tomato Sales Inc., one of the nation's largest suppliers to retail of vine-ripe tomatoes, Clanton said.

Clanton Farms expects to market about 400 to 500 acres of tomatoes this season, similar to last year, Clanton said. The company’s varietal profile — about 75% rounds, 25% romas and grapes — also will be similar, he said.

Acreage also will be similar for Triple M, Margolis said. About 65% of the company’s tomatoes are expected to be rounds, 35% romas, similar to last year, he said.



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