Heat cuts early Florida tomato volume

11/02/2009 02:53:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Growers typically pick lighter yields during the front end of the fall season.

October and November cold fronts that move across the state dry the crop and start setting the tops of those plantings. Further removed from the September rains, the younger plantings typically improve during the cooler and drier weather, DiMare said.

Stable prices

DiMare said he expected prices to remain stable and perhaps increase after the end of Virginia and Michigan volume.

He quoted grape tomatoes hitting as high as $29 for 20-pound cartons.
“There are  not a lot of tomatoes on the East Coast,” DiMare said in mid-October. “That’s caused the markets to move up a little. By the time the Palmetto-Ruskin deal gets going, the California deal should be winding down fairly rapidly.”

Esformes in mid-October reported selling 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens for $14 for 5x6s, $12 for 6x6s and $10 for 6x7s from northern California before severe rains harmed that state’s volume.

That’s lower than these prices from central Florida the USDA reported in late October for 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens: 5x6s, $17.95; 6x6s, $15.95; 6x7s, $13.95.
On grape tomatoes from central Florida, the USDA in late October reported $12.95-13.95 for flats of 12 1-pint containers with lids.

Twenty-pound cartons of loose were $24.95-25.95.

Last year, in early to mid-November from central Florida, the USDA reported flats of 12 1-pint containers with lids sold for $16.95-17.95; 20-pound cartons of loose grapes sold for $32.95-33.95.

In 2007, the flats sold for $10.65-11.95 with cartons at $17.65-18.65.

Wishnatzki Farms, Plant City, planned to start picking its grape and cherry tomatoes in late October, with volume picking up during November.

“The tomatoes are good,” said Gary Wishnatzki, president. “We have had good growing weather.”
Wishnatzki grows 50 acres of grape tomatoes and 25 acres of cherry tomatoes.

Florida growers planted fewer acres this season.

According to the USDA, plantings for fall harvest were reported at 7,300 acres, down 2.6% from last fall’s 7,500 harvested acres, but down only slightly from the 7,400 acres growers harvested in 2007.

According to the Florida Tomato Exchange, Florida growers packed 47 million 25-pound boxes during the 2008-09 season, up from 45 million boxes in 2008-09.

Prices averaged $8.13 a box compared to $13.71 for 2007-08.

Northern Florida production in Quincy begins in October and runs through Thanksgiving.

Central Florida volume normally runs through Christmas, while south Florida volume in Immokalee typically begins light shipments in early and mid-November with volume hitting in early December.

Homestead production usually starts after Christmas with promotable volume hitting Jan. 1.


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