Steady as she goes for the fall California/Baja tomato crop - The Packer

Steady as she goes for the fall California/Baja tomato crop

08/19/2009 02:57:43 PM
Lance Jungmeyer

Ace Tomato expects to be done with its harvest about Nov. 3. “From mid-November to December, you’ll have your traditional gap in the marketplace before the Mexican deal kicks in,” he said.

Interfresh Inc. should have plenty of fruit until the first freeze or big rains, said Cory Puentes, director of Northern California for the firm, which is based in Orange, Calif.

As supplies from California wind down after November, imports from Baja California should pick up the slack until about the first of the year, he said.

Frank’s Distributing of Produce LLC/Bionova Produce of Nogales, Ariz., will re-enter the Baja tomato deal in October, said Montie McGovern, director of operations.

David Cook, sales manager for Deardorff Family Farms, Oxnard, Calif., said his company’s acreage is mostly steady, with some slight variations because of crop rotation. The company expects heavy volumes through the first half of November, with product winding down sometime in December.

For Oceanside Produce, planted fields are down about 180 acres this year. Normally the firm would have a little more than 1,000 acres, but this year it has 830 acres, Wilber said.

Wilber said it’s too soon to predict how buyers will react to the crop. “We enjoy selling the tomatoes, but it’s a lot more enjoyable when you can sell them and make a profit,” Wilber said. “Cheap prices don’t help growers, brokers, distributors or retailers.”

In times of poor markets or otherwise sluggish demand, the key is to have more than one type of tomato for sale, said Bob Schachtel, sales manager for Expo Fresh LLC, San Diego.

Expo Fresh, which already is selling romas, will begin its vine-ripe deal in mid-September. “It helps you to have both at the same time, even if one of the markets may not be good at the time,” Schachtel said.

Pinos Produce, San Diego, expects a “very light” crop this fall, with volumes kicking in around late September and winding down after November, said Danny Uribe, sales manager.

In all, tomato growers are looking for 2009 to be a rebound year, because last year was plagued with low pricing.

To be certain, last year’s tomato deal was “awful,” Cook said.

But while many lay blame for the problems on the false fingering of tomatoes in the food safety scare, that concern may be overblown, Cook said.

“Everyone points to the FDA fiasco. But a lot of it had to do with oversupply. It was a perfect crop from all ends,” he said, adding that this year’s market should start a lot better, given the weather affecting supply of tomatoes throughout the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest. And with portions of the San Joaquin Valley coming up short on water, Cook said he is optimistic about his company’s fortunes this year.

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