Demand is expected to be strong for a large Arkansas vine-ripe tomato crop growers are calling one of the best in years.

“The report we got yesterday from the Triple M growers is that it looks to be the healthiest, prettiest crop they’ve ever had,” Gary Margolis, president of Gem Tomato & Vegetable Sales Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., marketer of Arkansas-grown Triple M tomatoes, said May 25.

Randy Clanton, owner of Hermitage, Ark.-based Randy Clanton Farms, agreed.

“The growing season has been superb — a good set, disease pressures low, excellent quality,” he said. “It’s one of those bumper crops.”

The frost that afflicted the Midwest this spring was too far north to affect Triple M, Margolis said. Shipments should start by about June 8, about a week earlier than normal, he said. Clanton expected a similar start date.

The deal should wind down about July 20, he said.

Acreage for Triple M is similar to last year, but because of the excellent growing weather, yields should be heavy. Margolis also reported an abundance of the extra-larges he said consumers are looking for in a summer tomato. 

There was some concern earlier this spring that the super-high prices out of Florida could hurt demand at the beginning of the Arkansas deal, Margolis said. But with supplies out of the Palmetto region picking up in May, bringing prices down, a smoother transition was expected, he said.

On May 25, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $8.95 for two-layer flats and cartons of 4x4 and 4x5 vine-ripes from Mexico, down from $8.95-10.95 last year at the same time.

Increased demand for locally grown should once again play into the hands of Arkansas growers, who tout their crop as the first “home grown” tomato deal of the summer, Margolis said.

“There’s always huge excitement for the first home-grown deal in the country,” Clanton said. “There’s a lot of excitement for locally grown, and a lot of retailers are promoting Arkansas-grown.”