PALMETTO, Fla. — With a catastrophic season behind them, Florida tomato grower-shippers were eyeing more normal fall and winter deals.
January’s freeze destroyed crops, and unusually low February and March temperatures kept crops from growing.
The high winter markets hit the basement in May and June after promotable volume began rebounding.
All told, shipping 28 million cartons during the last season, which ended in June, Florida packers shipped 17 million fewer cartons — or 38% less — than 2008-09’s 45 million cartons.
Workers grade grape tomatoes at Immokalee Produce Shippers Inc., Immokalee, Fla., in early November. Grower-shippers say promotable volume isn't expected to start until mid-November.
Tony DiMare, vice president of the DiMare Co., Homestead, which also grows and packs in Ruskin, said high heat that hit last fall also caused some setting problems, bloom drop and drastic yield losses for central Florida production.
While he called Florida’s early fall growing conditions as strong, DiMare said extreme summer and early fall heat harmed East Coast production and caused tight supplies.
DiMare said buyers shouldn’t expect normal tomato supplies until central Florida gets moving with promotable volume by mid-November.
“Look at the USDA’s tomato shipment report,” he said. “Most of those areas year to date are down considerably.”
DiMare said the Quincy northern Florida production area started in late September and early October in a light way with crops that didn’t set well because of the high heat.
“Overall in Florida, we have had a good growing season,” he said in mid-October. “We have had outstanding weather, which has been a little cooler and drier than normal. The weather we have had will be real beneficial to the tomato crops.”
In central Florida, Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd. had started packing light volumes of grape tomatoes in early October and planned to begin heavier movement in early November.
The grower-shipper planned to begin mature greens in late October and early November.
Jon Esformes, operating partner and chief marketing officer, said buyers shouldn’t expect significant volume from central Florida until mid-November.
“The crops look very good,” he said in mid-October. “We expect to have very high quality for the coming season.”