Restaurants continue to crave Florida tomatoes

12/06/2011 03:13:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Batista Madonia Jr., vice president of sales and operations for East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc., Mulberry, said he marvels at how much markup retailers apply to tomatoes.

“A $12 box of tomatoes today would be 50 cents a pound,” he said.

“But in stores, they sell for $3 a pound. The repackers and growers aren’t getting that money. In my opinion, the consumer is just getting charged too much.”

Even when grower-shippers sell product, such as grape tomatoes, direct to retailers, the retailers want prices two to three weeks in advance and also triple their price, Madonia said.

Michael Lacey, director of sales and marketing for Wimauma-based Red Diamond Farms, a division of Tomato Thyme Corp., said Florida supermarkets remain focused on the state’s Fresh from Florida promotions logo.

“It has been a big deal for them to have tomatoes from Florida,” he said.

“In our meetings with Publix, their big deal is to support what’s going on in Florida. Not just tomatoes, but also all Florida products. It affects what goes up North. People know Florida has a good piece of fruit. Retailers are on-board supporting Florida agriculture.”

Richard Levine, president of Immokalee Produce Shippers Inc., said grape tomatoes thrive at retail.

“Grape tomatoes seem to be getting more popular every year,” he said.

“The grape seems to be one of the most popular tomatoes used for certain commodities and it looks to be one of the most steady items. It’s not the same volume as mature-greens, but more of the grapes are being consumed.”


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