New Jersey tomato deal to end earlier than normal

05/24/2012 02:30:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

CEDARVILLE, N.J. — Growers expect this year’s New Jersey tomato deal to start on time, but a majority of the state’s volume should finish earlier than normal.

Plant City, Fla.-based Ag-Mart Produce Inc., which does business as Santa Sweets Inc., plans to begin harvesting July 4, give or take a week depending on growing season conditions, said J.M. Procacci, Ag-Mart’s chief operating officer and COO of Philadelphia-based Procacci Bros. Sales Inc.

The season, which normally finishes by late October, should end earlier as Ag-Mart plans to finish harvesting in late September, Procacci said.

“This year, we have decided we won’t put in a late crop,” he said in mid-May.

“The tomato market is at a protracted low. It has been six months of this kind of market and people are lowering their acreage. We plan to go back down and utilize some of our acres in North Carolina during that time. October tomatoes will come from North Carolina and northern Florida.”

In mid-May, Ag-Mart was transplanting grape tomatoes, vine-ripes and its heirloom Ugly Ripes.

Procacci said transplanting remained on-schedule and called growing conditions favorable for plant growth.

New Jersey normally produces strong volume through mid-September before other growing regions including North Carolina and Quincy, Fla., enter the deal before central Florida begins.

Procacci called last season disastrous and said hurricanes and torrential rains dumped salt and rain from the bay onto fields and ruined plantings. He said growers weren’t able to capitalize on a high late summer market because of lack of production.

Ag-Mart calls itself the state’s largest grower. Procacci said the state’s acreage should be down around 15%.

Eastern Fresh Growers Inc. plans to begin production in late July, as usual.

Tom Sheppard, president, characterized last season as average.

Sheppard said overproduction and a depressed economy led to weak demand and kept prices low.

He said wintertime prices remained low.

“Last season was just OK,” Sheppard said. “We didn’t have the greatest of yields and those guys in Florida took a beating.”

The grower Eastern Fresh represents grows mostly romas as well as some grape tomatoes.

The state’s tomato harvest normally finishes by late October.

In mid-May, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for 25-pound cartons of central and south Florida mature-greens: 5x6s, $9.95-11.95; 6x6s, $8-10.95 and 6x7s, $8.95-10.95.

On grapes, flats of 12 1-pint containers with lids from the same growing regions sold for $11.95-13.95 with 20-pound cartons loose selling for $21.95-23.95.

On romas, 25-pound cartons of loose tomatoes fetched $11.95-12.95 for extra large, $10.95-11.95 for large and $9.95-10.95 for mediums.



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