Tomato production changes, demands could cut export

02/18/2013 05:13:00 PM
Mike Hornick

The glut of Mexican tomatoes that weakened markets in 2012 left growers and shippers gun-shy, but not everyone has cut production this time.

“We’re down about 30% by design,” said John King, vice president of sales at San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce.

“As an industry we had just disastrous market conditions due to oversupply last winter. We’ll have some additional product, but we’ve tailored acreage to serve our customers.”

Andrew & Williamson grows heirloom, roma, vine-ripened, cherry and grape tomatoes in Culiacan, Sinaloa.

Peak production runs through February to March 15, King said.

The company, which also grows organic grape tomatoes there, expects promotable volumes.

“It was a terrible year,” said Fried DeSchouwer, president of Vero Beach, Fla.-based Greenhouse Produce Co. LLC. “We shipped product at all-time lows for 10 out of 12 months. Neither our growers nor our competition could continue to do that.”

For all he knows, DeSchouwer said, the market could quickly tank again. But it’s more likely in his view that Mexican exports will be lower.

“Mexican authorities are tightening up export licensing for growers,” he said Feb. 1. “But the good news for the Mexican grower is that a growing middle class is strengthening their domestic market. Those two factors will help somewhat slow down volumes coming across the border, at least in the next four or five months.”

Despite memories of the glut, Greenhouse Produce Co. expects to increase its volume about 20% over last year by adding growers. Its greenhouse producers of tomatoes and other vegetables operate in various regions of Mexico.

Calavo Growers Inc. devotes its two Nogales, Ariz., distribution centers to tomatoes.

J.J. Badillo, director of diversified products, expects short-supply situations to pop up from about Feb. 15 to March 15 because of cold temperatures that hit Sonora and northern Sinaloa in January.

“I believe the weather will have an effect on open field programs that typically last until March 1,” Badillo said Jan. 30. “I expect to see bloom drop show up in mid-February. We may see the open field finish up 15 to 25 days earlier than normal. There’s been enough weather to create a few peak and valley scenarios.”

Still, open field represents just a handful of Calavo’s sourcing, he said.

Calavo handles beefsteak, vine ripened, roma and pink tomatoes at one of the distribution centers. The other handles mature green tomatoes and ripening. The company packs tomatoes under the Calavo and Bueno labels. It also has a small trial program on red bell peppers.


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