SAN DIEGO — Tomato shipments from Southern California and Baja California, Mexico, got off to a later start than usual this summer, but volume was building in August, and grower-shippers expect promotable supplies of good-quality tomatoes during September, October and November.
Mark Munger, vice president of marketing for Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, San Diego, said in early August that this has been a fantastic season, despite cooler weather than usual.
Cool weather prevents big production spikes.
“It’s been a very steady production season,” he said, with excellent-quality fruit.
Oceanside-based Fresh Pac International started shipping roma tomatoes in May, said Brian Bernauer, sales director. Vine-ripe and grape tomatoes should start in September.
“Roma tomatoes are outstanding,” he said in early August. “Growing conditions have been tremendous for the last few weeks.”
This year’s cool summer was not as cool as last year’s, said David Cook, sales manager for Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard.
Demand was good for the light harvest that was available in early August, and he said he expected heavy volume by mid-August.
“By Labor Day, we’ll be buried in tomatoes,” Cook said.
At the Carlsbad location of Springfield, Ill.-based Tom Lange Co., salesman Tim Biggar said in early August that the industry was experiencing “kind of a strange deal.”
“They don’t seem to be buying as much,” he said, and he wasn’t sure why or what would change that.
The company handles mostly vine-ripes out of Baja California.
Shipments from Baja California were picking up steam in August from Pinos Produce Inc., said sales manager Danny Uribe.
He expects to have promotable volume by early September, and the company will ship into November or even December.
Pinos ships primarily romas and some cherry, grape and vine-ripe tomatoes.
Quality this season looks really good, he said.
Expo Fresh LLC, San Diego, was shipping roma and cherry tomatoes in early August and will start vine-ripes in mid-September, said Bob Schachtel, sales manager.
Early quality was good, and he said he hoped it would remain that way.
“It all depends on the weather,” he said.
Things were looking good at Be Wise Ranch, Escondido, said owner Bill Brammer.
The company, a certified organic grower, produces a variety of high-quality heirloom tomatoes and other tomatoes, fruits and vegetables.
“We really stress quality and make sure the varieties and color we pick will make it to the destination,” Brammer said. “So far we’ve had pretty good luck.”
The dog days of August are a transitional time of year, as summer winds down and consumers are focused more on buying books, school clothes and lunch pails than they are on filling those lunch pails, Uribe said.
However, a boost in prices is almost automatic after the weather cools in September and homegrown deals wind down, he said.
Andrew & Williamson plans put a strong emphasis this winter on diversifying its growing regions, Munger said.
Last year’s winter freeze was a sobering experience, he said, so the company is growing in several different areas as well as in open fields and in shade houses.
The trend seems to be toward more extreme weather, Munger said, “So we must have systems in place to handle extremes — we can’t afford interruptions for customers.”