Baja tomato volumes comparable to last year and bigger for some

08/20/2010 02:05:02 PM
Susie Cable

Tomatoes from the Baja California region were slowed this season by atypically cool weather, but growers said overall volumes will be comparable to last year and bigger for some.

Mexico,’s Northern Baja California just ended the coolest July that San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce has seen in its 25 years of growing, said Mark Munger, vice president of marketing.

Temperatures were 10 to 15 degrees lower than normal for much of the month, he said. The low temperatures and the accompanying weeks of fog delivered mixed blessings.

“It was scary at the beginning because tomatoes were coming on slow in San Quentin (Baja California) and we were several weeks behind our plans,” Munger said. “But because it’s cool, (the tomatoes are) probably healthier.”

The plants grow more slowly when it’s cool, which can lead to better quality, Munger said. As of Aug. 2, the weather was warming back up to normal, and San Quentin crops were in peak production, Munger said. Normal daytime high temperatures range from 85 to 90 degrees, he said.

Normally, Andrew & Williamson has a gap in production in August, but Munger said he doesn’t expect to see that this year because of the crop’s slow growth. Instead, he said strong volumes and quality are likely throughout the late summer season in Baja.

Munger said the market for roma tomatoes, Andrew & Williamson’s largest-volume tomato crop in Baja, was “very fair.” In early August, he said there was a good supply of tomatoes on the market, as is typical for midsummer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported on July 29 that 25-pound cartons of plum-type tomatoes crossing from Mexico through Otay Mesa, San Diego, were priced at $6.95-8.95 for extra-large and large sizes. Demand was light.

A year earlier, the USDA reported that prices were the same for extra-large roma varieties of plum-type tomatoes. They were priced at $5.95-8.95 for large sizes.

Jeff Dolan, field operations manager for grower-shipper The DiMare Co., Newman, Calif., said the market in early August had recovered from low prices in May, but prices were still only fair at best.

“It’s not where it needs to be, but it’s not a train-wreck levels,” Dolan said. “We need to have an average of $7 a box.”

Fresh Pac International, Oceanside, Calif., also grows tomatoes in the northern part of Baja California, in Colonet. Most of its tomatoes are romas, but it also grows vine-ripes, grapes and cherries. About 80% are grown under shade cloth, while the rest are field-grown, said Brian Bernauer, sales director.


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