RUSKIN, Fla. — This year’s Florida spring tomato deal should bring high quality and volume.
Buyers should also expect an earlier-than-typical spring start, grower-shippers say.
However, grower-shippers have endured a double whammy of small losses from an early January freeze and low prices due to heavy early Mexican volumes.
Volume lighter than usual
Tony DiMare, vice president of Homestead-based DiMare Co., said Florida should produce lighter-than-typical volume until the middle of March, when he expects volume to pick up for Homestead and Immokalee spring crops.
He said the Jan. 3-4 freeze cut yields by up to 30% and that damaged fruit sets and cold winds harmed quality and knocked packouts by up to 20%. Packinghouses in February were packing those tomatoes damaged in the Jan. 3-4 freeze, he said.
Warmer-than-typical February growing conditions should help push Immokalee and Palmetto-Ruskin spring harvesting to start in early April, five to seven days ahead of normal, DiMare said.
“Quality will be excellent,” he said in late February.
“We have had dry weather in Florida. Any time you have prolonged periods of dry weather, it will make for outstanding quality.”
Low winter prices
DiMare lamented low late winter prices.
In late February, he quoted $7.95 for 25-pound cartons of loose mature-greens and said those prices were higher than early February, when f.o.b.s ran $3.95-5.95.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Feb. 28 reported 25-pound cartons of loose mature-greens 85% No. 1 or better from south Florida selling for $9.95 for 5x6s and $11.95 for 6x6s and 6x7s, higher than the $7.95 for 5x6s and $9.95 for 6x6s and 6x7s that the USDA reported in mid-February.
At the same time last year, the USDA reported f.o.b.s of $37.95 for 5x6s, 6x6s and 6x7s.
For cherry tomatoes, the USDA on Feb. 28 reported flats of 12 1-pint baskets with lids from south Florida selling for $6.95-7.95, down from the $24.95-25.95 last year in late February.
Grape tomatoes were pricing at $9.95-10.95 for flats of 12 1-pint containers with lids; 20-pound cartons of loose grapes sold for $18.95-19.95.
That’s lower than the $25.95-27.95 shippers received during the same period last year for the 12 1-pint containers and $49.95-50.95 for the 20-pound cartons.
Romas on Feb. 28 sold for $9.95 for 25-pound loose cartons of extra large, $8.95 for large, $7.95 for mediums, and 6.95 for small. At the same time last year, f.o.b.s ran $29.95 for extra large, large and medium.