New variety stokes interest in Florida tomatoes - The Packer

New variety stokes interest in Florida tomatoes

12/06/2011 01:54:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

With romas accounting for 35% of West Coast’s varietal mix, the grower-shipper markets its romas under its Primo Italiano label.

Romas remain the mainstay for Immokalee Produce Shippers Inc., Immokalee, and account for about 40% of its packings, said Richard Levine, president.

Grapes and vine-ripe rounds represent the balance.

“Romas seem like they’re always our best customer base item,” Levine said.

“Most of our tomatoes are vine-ripes, so it’s a different kind of thing than what the big guys do with mature-greens. The romas and the grapes are the most interesting varieties to work with.”

Levine said he’s seeing strong demand on grapes and vine-ripe rounds.

The abundance of varieties demonstrates Florida tomato growers’ commitment to the industry, said Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of broker Weis-Buy Farms Inc., Fort Myers.

“This industry has expanded the variety of tomatoes it grows,” he said.

“(In the past,) if it wasn’t a green tomato, it wasn’t anything. Today, we have vine-ripes, grapes, yellows and heirloom varieties. The same gassed tomatoes we grew in the past and romas.”

For the DiMare Co., Homestead, mature-greens constitute 85% of its packings with romas at 10% and grapes accounting for 9%, said Tony DiMare, vice president. He said the mix hasn’t really changed much.

“Grapes are continuing to experience good movement and demand,” he said.

“But this can be very easily overdone and has been overdone. You can have the best demand but still, it’s only (part) of demand. If the industry continues to overproduce, grapes, rounds, romas and greenhouse tomatoes will suffer serious losses because of what the costs are today.”

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