PALMETTO, Fla. — Severe fall heat has harmed early volumes of north and central Florida fall tomatoes.
Higher than normal October temperatures combined with humidity accelerated crop production on grape and cherry tomatoes, and excessive rains during growing periods after August and
September plantings damaged the first plantings and delayed promotable volume for central Florida rounds until close to Thanksgiving, growers said.
While prices have been low throughout the year, shippers said they expected the smaller early shipments and problems with October California shipments to help raise prices.
Jon Esformes, chief marketing officer of Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd., said continuous days of temperatures exceeding 90 degrees damaged early Quincy and Palmetto crops.
“I do not look for any amount of volume from either north Florida or the Palmetto-Ruskin deal until sometime between Nov. 20 to Dec. 1,” he said in mid-October. “What I saw of the tomatoes was a very, very light set on the vine up until the third string.”
Esformes said front end volume could be down by as much as 40%.
As northern producing areas were winding down production, central Florida grower-shippers in mid-October were beginning to pick light volumes of cherry and grape tomatoes.
Central Florida growers began picking light volumes of grape and cherry tomatoes in early October, a week earlier than normal.
Movement was picking up during the month and is expected to hit larger volume in early November, said Tony DiMare, vice president of the Homestead-based DiMare Co., which has production in the Palmetto-Ruskin region.
The unfavorable weather caused little damage to the early crops, though the middle and later plantings fared well, he said in mid-October.
If central Florida receives cooler weather and lower humidity, the early plantings can potentially make a crop, DiMare said.