Baja romas look good as vine-ripes gear up - The Packer

Baja romas look good as vine-ripes gear up

05/23/2013 05:05:00 PM
Tom Burfield

Courtesy Fresh Pac InternationalRomas tomatoes in Colonet in Baja California, Mexico, shown here the first week of May, should be shipping by late May, says Brian Bernauer, sales director for Fresh Pac International, Oceanside, Calif. Growing conditions are good this spring, he says, with mostly mild temperatures and ample rainfall.Roma tomatoes are shipping out of Baja California, Mexico, right on schedule, and the majority of the vine-ripes should start by late May or early June, grower-shippers say.

So far, quality has been good, and growers say they expect that to continue as production picks up.

San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce started shipping roma tomatoes out of the Vizcaino region of Central Baja California the first week of May and expects to continue that program through mid-July, vice president of sales John King said.

“It’s a new district, so you’ve got the young plants and fantastic quality,” he said in early May. “We’re starting with jumbos and extra-large size on romas.”

Spring weather has been mild, he said.

Sizing on early vine-ripes has been good, as well, with lots of large-sized beefsteak tomatoes, he said.

King expected to see abundant supplies of vine-ripes by late May with peak volume in June.

Sales director Brian Bernauer expects Oceanside, Calif.-based Fresh Pac International to have its Baja California program up and running by May 29.

“The plants look healthy,” he said in early May.

Despite some cool weather early on, conditions were nice during April and early May, he said.

Up to 15% of Fresh Pac’s tomatoes should be organic this season, and the company plans to continue to expand its organic program, Bernauer said.

Fresh Pac plans to offer organic round, roma, grape and cherry tomatoes.

San Diego-based Expo Fresh LLC expects to start its Baja tomato deal around June 1, as usual, sales manager Bob Schachtel said.

“Growing conditions have been fine,” he said, “though a little cooler than we like to see.”

Bernardi & Associates, a Nogales, Ariz.-based produce broker with an office in San Diego, started sourcing tomatoes from Baja California on schedule April 15, president Joe Bernardi said.

“Quality has been good,” resulting in good supplies and good arrivals, Bernardi said.

“Prices are a little bit above normal for this time of year,” he said May 9.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was not yet reporting f.o.b. prices on romas out of Baja California in mid-May, but May 20 prices on 25-pound cartons of extra-large field and adapted-environment romas through Nogales, Ariz., were $10.95; large were $9.95-10.95; and mediums were $8.30-9.

Last year at the same time, large and extra-large field and greenhouse romas were $7.95, and mediums were mostly $6.95.

Bernardi attributed the stronger prices this year to fewer than usual tomatoes from Florida during April and May.

He expects that scenario to continue through May, but prices should start to drop in June as more product becomes available from various growing regions, he said.

Weather in the San Quentin region, where San Diego-based Pinos Produce grows its Baja California tomatoes, has been “very crummy,” sales manager Danny Uribe said.

“Normally, we start vine-ripes around Cinco de Mayo,” he said. “The weather has been awful here. It’s been chilly, damp and rainy off and on all winter.”

Pinos started its roma program in April and planned to kick off its vine-ripe deal around Memorial Day, continuing through November.

Uribe said he does not expect the cold weather in San Quintin to affect the quality of the crop.

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