Low Florida tomato volume expected to run through mid-April

03/01/2010 12:11:26 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

(UPDATED COVERAGE, March 4) A large gap in Florida tomatoes production has tomato buyers scrambling for product.


Doug Ohlemeier

Tomatoes run on the packing line at the DiMare Co., in Homestead, Fla., in mid-February. Grower-shippers say Homestead is one of the few areas supplying Florida tomatoes and that buyers should expect a large gap in Florida mature green packings until early to mid-April.


Prices in late February escalated into the $30s for mature greens and as high as $50 for grape tomatoes, and grower-shippers say buyers shouldn’t expect any appreciable volume until early to mid-April.

Cold and rainy weather since the Jan. 10-11 freeze that gutted Immokalee, Fla.-area plantings has prevented south Florida production from returning to normal volume.

“No one has any tomatoes, so the price is insignificant,” said Ed Angrisani, partner with Taylor & Fulton Packing LLC, Palmetto, Fla. “Florida is packing like 20,000 (cartons) a day or like that. It’s just not enough to do anyone any good.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported in late February light supplies of south Florida mature greens and insufficient volume of cherries and roma tomatoes to establish a market.
 
Grower-shippers and the USDA reported 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens 85% U.S. No. One or better from south Florida selling for $31.95 for 5x6s, 6x6s and 6x7s, up from $21.95-23.95 for those same sizes in mid-February.

For grape tomatoes, the USDA reported $25.95-26.95 for flats of 12 1-pint baskets with 20-pound cartons of loose grapes selling for $50.95-51.95, considerably higher than the $16.95 for clamshells and $31.95 for cartons in mid-February.

Fort Myers, Fla.-based Weis-Buy Farms Inc. brokerage has been receiving many requests for Florida tomatoes.

Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer, said foodservice suppliers are struggling for product.

“My phone is filled with people requesting tomatoes,” he said March 1. “We cannot supply our own clientele. We are in a critical situation for supplies now. Anything that looks like a tomato is going to sell.”

While DiMare Co., Homestead, Fla., has limited supplies in Homestead, and most other packers had sporadic volumes, Weisinger said.

Gerry Odell, chief operating officer of farming and packing for the Lipman Family Cos., Immokalee, said he doesn’t expect Florida to return to normal volumes until early April.


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