Baja tomato volumes comparable to last year and bigger for some - The Packer

Baja tomato volumes comparable to last year and bigger for some

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

By early August, Fresh Pac was on its second pickings, with new fields starting regularly and old ones dropping off. Bernauer said he expected peak production by late August.

Fresh Pac’s quality and sizing were good as of Aug. 2, and supplies should be good throughout the rest of the season, Bernauer said. Romas are expected to be available through January, but the other tomatoes will likely finish in November.

Bernauer said Fresh Pac’s volumes are expected to be higher, with about 25% more romas and 20% more vine-ripes, cherries and grapes. The increased volumes are due, at least in part, to planting more tomatoes under shade cloth. Each season, more of its crops are under shade, he said.

“It looks like that’s how Mexico is going,” Bernauer said. “You’ve got most people planting it that way.”

Typically, plants under shade cloth produce bigger volumes, but it’s more expensive to grow that way he said. Shade cloth helps protect plants from pests and disease, and fruit tends to be more consistent in size and color, Bernauer said.

Disease pressure can be high in northern Baja, but shade houses provide good protection and help produce good quality, Munger said. Shade houses lessen exposure to dust and wind, which can cause tomato scarring, and nearly completely eliminate pest problems, he said. They also offer a more controlled food safety environment as compared to open field growing.

Andrew & Williamson grows vine-ripe roma, vine-ripe round, cherry and grape tomatoes as its primary crops in San Quentin. All are in shade houses, but some are grown in the ground, while others are hydroponically grown.

Munger said he expects Andrew & Williamson to have good production throughout August and September, with availability of northern Baja tomatoes until mid-October. By early October, Andrew & Williamson is expected to be harvesting tomatoes from the desert region of central Baja.

Oxnard, Calif.-based Deardorff Family Farms’ Oxnard crops also were slowed by cool, cloudy and foggy weather in June and July, said David Cook, sales manager.

On Aug. 2, Deardorff was harvesting field-grown vine-ripe round and vine-ripe roma tomatoes. By then, temperatures had returned to normal, but production was not yet increasing as it normally would.

“Today, volume is the same as it was (a week ago),” Cook said on Aug. 2. “Typically, it increases all the time.”

DiMare started harvesting California tomatoes in mid-May in the Coachella Valley, and it is expected to harvest in the San Joaquin Valley into November. Cook said he expects Deardorff to continue harvesting tomatoes in Oxnard until late November.

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