Doug OhlemeierBob Spencer, vice president and sales manager of West Coast Tomato Inc., Palmetto, Fla., at the packing line running roma tomatoes in early November. A warmer-than-normal October and November produced lighter-than-normal Palmetto-Ruskin volume.PALMETTO, Fla. — Florida’s mature-greens and roma tomatoes started production by November.
The mature-greens remain Florida’s staple variety and both varieties retain strong demand.
Supplies of mature-greens were smaller than normal during the October start of the Palmetto-Ruskin deal.
Tony DiMare, vice president of the Homestead-based DiMare Co., said the smaller supplies should make for an active market.
“I see demand staying strong and prices remaining strong into December,” Tony DiMare, he said. “We didn’t see the typical carryover from California that we usually do into November. Mexico has had several weather events that have affected their crop as far as volume.”
Once harvesting began in late October for West Coast Tomato Inc., volume began hitting fairly soon, said Bob Spencer, vice president and sales manager.
“Quality is very good, and we have a good market,” he said. “The rains we had in August and September decreased some of the volume we normally would have had in the fall. Fortunately, we have had some fairly dry weather, which is helping the crops come out of some of the issues that may have been present in the early crops.”
Michael Melninkaitis, director of operations for Northeast Produce Inc., Plainville, Conn., and owner of the Immokalee-based Immokalee Produce Shippers Inc., said he expects South Florida volume to commence in mid-December.
“Quality is getting better,” he said. “Demand is good from the whole country as everyone is pulling from the East Coast. There will be promotable volume for the Christmas time frame.”
Despite their comparatively smaller share of the retail tomato category, mature-greens retain value, said Jon Esformes, operating partner of Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd.
“Without a doubt, mature-greens are a very important part of the retail supply system in particular because of their consistent ability to deliver high quality tomatoes day in and day out,” he said. “Retailers don’t have the latitude to be able to handle product that doesn’t meet their specifications. Mature-greens are able to meet that consistent quality standard.”
Because of costs, Florida growers aren’t producing as many romas as in the past.
Spencer said that is helping maintain strong interest.
“Demand has been fairly good,” Spencer said. “We’ve been fortunate. You can get a fairly stable supply and decent quality and you will always have a market for your products. As long as there aren’t too many surges coming from Mexico, you can have some profitable years on romas.”
Roma demand remains high for Wimauma-based Tomato Thyme Corp., said Michael Lacey, director of sales and marketing.
“We have increased our contractual foodservice business,” he said. “Most of the foodservice purveyors want that medium to large sizes. We grow a specific variety. The growth is mainly due to foodservice.”
This fall, demand has remained strong on large and extra-large romas, DiMare said.
DiMare began roma production in early November and said bigger volume began in late November.
“The fall and winter time of the year, there’s not a lot of volume,” DiMare said. “Mexico produces the volume on romas in the winter. Romas here tend to be affected worse by the winter weather, especially rain, more so than the rounds.”
Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of Fort Myers-based Weis-Buy Farms Inc., said this season should bring stronger roma demand.
“There’s a lot of western demand for romas, and they’re still in short supply,” he said in mid-November. “We’re hoping there’s more volume in Florida this year.”
Weisinger said some growers stopped growing romas for this winter.
He said the deal doesn’t normally begin in real volume until mid-November, though new varieties have been pushing earlier starts.