By and large, organics have little space in the California tomato deal - The Packer

By and large, organics have little space in the California tomato deal

08/19/2009 02:34:06 PM
Lance Jungmeyer

When it comes to organics and the California/Baja tomato deal, players are few and far between.

One company involved in the deal is Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard, Calif. Of the company’s 150 acres of romas, about 25 acres are organic, said David Cook, sales manager.

“It’s a small deal, maybe only 15% of the overall roma crop,” he said.

From a marketing standpoint, Bill Wilber, president and director of marketing for Oceanside Produce Inc., Oceanside, Calif., said he would like to have organics.

“But from a growing standpoint, you need a long-term commitment,” Wilber said. “There’s no new property around us to devote to getting organic certification, which takes three years.”

Interfresh Inc., Orange, Calif., is not selling much organic produce at this point, said Cory Puentes, director of Northern California.

“Even though the economy is starting to rebound, a lot of our customers aren’t willing to pay the premium for organic, because their customers aren’t willing to pay it. It’s all about value at this point,” Puentes said.

For many companies, any talk of organics is a nonstarter.

DiMare Newman, Newman, Calif., does not grow organics and will not for the foreseeable future, said Jeff Dolan, field operations manager.

“I used to be the largest organic tomato grower in the U.S. and I grow zero today,” Dolan said. “It’s a niche market that is not profitable in my opinion.”

Organics are on the radar of Ace Tomato Co. Inc., Manteca, Calif., but there are no plans to sell any in the near future, said general manager John Lupul.

“We discuss it. But it’s a commodity that’s difficult for our program to implement, with the necessary adjustments on the packing side,” Lupul said.

Ace Tomato might be inclined to look at organics if the company were to add a hothouse deal. “If we could isolate the organics a little better, it might make it worth doing,” he said.

Pinos Produce, San Diego, is not in a position to grow organics at this point. To seriously consider it, Danny Uribe, sales manager, said there would need to be more water available.



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