PALMETTO, Fla. — After enduring later-than-normal starts, buyers should expect smaller Florida tomato volume.
Doug OhlemeierBob Spencer (left), vice president and sales manager of West Coast Tomato Inc., Palmetto, and Terry Harris, salesman, on the packing line running mature greens in early November. This year’s Florida tomato deal started later than normal and is bringing lower than usual volume. Because of heavy rains and excessive heat that struck during the early parts of the central Florida deal in September and October, season volume is running 7-10 days later than usual.
Gerry Odell, chief operating officer of farming and packing for Lipman, Immokalee, said buyers should expect to see regular volume in early December.
“Things are getting better,” he said in mid-November.
“The quality and volume will be normalized once we hit the first week of December. Our packouts are decent. We don’t have a lot of size yet. I would say we have a more even distribution of sizes now. We’re not running heavy to the extra large at this point.”
Some Immokalee growers began spot pickings in early November before south Florida production typically starts in mid- to late November, Odell said.
He said Florida’s true window, when central and south Florida production ship promotable volume, typically begins around Thanksgiving.
Odell said demand began to build after central California finished its mature-greens harvesting, and though Mexico started moving some volume of romas and hothouse tomatoes across the border, west Mexico hadn’t started yet in mid-November, and Sinaloa production is scheduled to start in late December.
Tony DiMare, vice president of the DiMare Co., Homestead, which has operations in Ruskin, said the season opened with disappointing production.
He said yields suffered a 30% decline.
“Yields and packouts have been below-normal,” he said in late November.
“The heavy rains and heat made for bad settings. The tomatoes picked this week and what will be picked next week will continually get better. Quality and sizings should progress going forward into December.”
DiMare said buyers should expect volume from Palmetto-Ruskin in early December.
He said business finally began increasing after California finished and Canada’s greenhouse industry began winding down.
In mid-November, DiMare characterized opening season mature-green tomato prices as near typical.
In late November, however, prices increased as the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Nov. 16 reported 25-pound cartons of loose mature-greens 85% U.S. No. 1 or better selling for $14.95 for 5x6s, 6x6s and 6x7s, up from the $13.95 for 5x6s, $12.95 for 6x6s and $11.95 for 6x7s it reported a week earlier.