Water has been in short supply throughout the California and Baja California growing areas this season; nonetheless, most growers say tomato supplies should be ample and quality should be good to excellent.
The DiMare Co., Newman, Calif., started picking mature-green tomatoes in Indio in California’s Coachella Valley in early May, said Jeff Dolan, field operations manager.
That’s a little earlier than usual, he said, because the region had very favorable growing conditions this year.
As of mid-May, size and color were looking good, he said, and he expected good quality to continue when the deal transitions to Northern California.
“We should have a nice, orderly flow between the desert and Newman sometime in early June,” he said.
Expo Fresh LLC, San Diego, plans to kick off its tomato deal in Baja California with romas starting the first of June, said Bob Schachtel, sales manager.
Vine-ripes should start harvesting in August or September.
“Everything’s been fine so far weather-wise,” he said in mid-May.
Some wind and hot weather has materialized, but that shouldn’t affect the company’s tomatoes, which are all grown in shade houses as of this year, he said.
Nogales, Ariz.-based Bernardi & Associates started receiving tomatoes from Baja California in mid-April and should continue until the first of next year, said president Joe Bernardi.
“Conditions have been real good for growing,” he said.
The company sells roma, grape, cherry and vine-ripe tomatoes grown in Baja California.
Prices were lower than a year ago, Bernardi said in early May, but he added that they were abnormally high last year.
“Romas are a struggle to move right now,” he said. “I think once we get into June, things will start to level out a little bit.”
Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard, Calif., was growing tomatoes in Florida in May and expects to start harvesting in California in early July, said Tom Deardorff, president.
Acreage in Oxnard will be similar to last year, and Deardorff said there should be no dramatic changes. However, he said the area was facing water constraints.
If there’s any good news associated with California’s drought, it’s that there was no rain damage to the tomato crop, said Tom Frudden, sales manager for Red Rooster Sales in Firebaugh.
Red Rooster will start picking the first of June and fruit set looked good in mid-May.
“There wasn’t much of a winter,” Frudden said. “We’ve had above-average temperatures for spring.”
Los Angeles-based Sun Pacific Shippers will start shipping mature-green and roma tomatoes out of the San Joaquin Valley the second week of June, said salesman Louis Biglieri.
Volume will be similar to last year, he said.
West Coast Tomato Growers, Oceanside, Calif., will start picking its Oceanside Pole brand vine-ripe tomatoes by early July and romas in August, said Aaron Quon, greenhouse vegetable category manager for The Oppenheimer Group, Vancouver, British Columbia, which markets the product.
“The crop is looking really good,” he said. “We expect excellent quality.”
Drought conditions created an added challenge for many growing operations.
“We had to do some maneuvering on our end,” Dolan said. “As far as our customers are concerned, they shouldn’t see any difference compared to any other year.”
Deardorff Family Farms gets some of its water from wells and some from the local water district, Deardorff said.
Growers are subject to mandatory reductions of 20% compared with last year, he said, and have to “juggle things around” to maintain the size of their programs.
“We’re looking for ways to properly manage that and increase efficiencies while maintaining production,” he said.
“This water thing is changing all the time,” Frudden said.
Growers believe they have enough water and then new regulations are issued.
“They come in and pull the carpet out from under you, and all of sudden, you don’t have the water that you thought you had,” he said.
Growers have their fingers crossed, hoping for El Niño conditions later in the year, which would mean heavy rainfall this winter, Frudden said.