West Mexico tomatoes shape up well

11/23/2009 10:24:32 AM
Tom Burfield

NOGALES, Ariz. — Tomato-lovers can look forward to some good eating in December, when supplies of open-field and shade house-grown tomatoes from west Mexico start to ramp up.

“We’re looking for a high-quality west Mexico tomato deal,” Jon Esformes, chief marketing officer for Palmetto, Fla.-based Pacific Tomato Growers, said in early November. “I’m very pleased with the plants and the set.”

JJ Badillo, director of diversified products in the Nogales office of Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc., also was optimistic about the coming season.

“We have an excellent crop coming,” he said, citing “fabulous growing conditions.”

“The outlook is for a top-quality, high-volume program with promotable product,” he added.

The company ships beefsteak and mature-green tomatoes.

Thanks to favorable growing weather in Culiacan, many growers should start to harvest earlier than usual, said Jerry Wagner, director of sales and marketing for Farmer’s Best International LLC.

The company will source from Culiacan and La Cruz, with shipments starting in late November to the first week of December. Farmer’s Best offers roma, vine-ripe and grape tomatoes. The company should have roma tomatoes into June and vine-ripes into May.

Wagner expected a sizable reduction on open-field tomatoes compared to last year as growers cut back on plantings.
Pacific Tomato Growers should source from Culiacan, Los Mochis and Baja California by early December, Esformes said. The company will offer roma, vine-ripe and grape tomatoes from Mexico.

Although certain areas received some rain and endured winds of up to 40 mph from the remnants of Hurricane Rick in late October, Esformes said he saw no bloom drop or flooding caused by the storm.

“We were very lucky as far as where the storm ended up moving,” he said.

The company expects to ship up to 4.5 million packages from mid-October into May.

San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce hoped to see good production from its Culiacan tomato deal by mid-December, said Mark Munger, vice president of marketing.

Although the company had grown 100% shade house product there, this season there will be a combination of open-field and covered production.

“Our focus isn’t to be shade house growers,” Munger said.

“Our focus is to have a high-quality, consistent crop year-round that’s grown as safely as possible.”

Shade houses are needed in the Baja California growing area, where disease pressure can be heavy, he said. With fewer pests and rainy weather in Culiacan, open-field production can be an advantage, he said.

“We found that combining shade and open-field production gives us a lot of tools to work with and lowers production costs,” Munger said.

As of early November, growing weather in Culiacan was favorable.

“Right now, we’re real optimistic that we’re looking at a real nice crop in Culiacan,” Munger said.



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