PALMETTO, Fla. — After experiencing one of the worst years on record, Florida tomato grower-shippers opened their new season with lower-than-normal national volume and stronger demand.
Growers began harvesting light volumes of grape and cherry tomatoes in mid-October, and their packing lines began running mature-greens and romas later in the month.
Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of Weis-Buy Farms Inc., Fort Myers, said business is good.
“The quality has improved tremendously,” he said. “We have had very few problems out of Florida. I don’t see the volume. A lot of these guys are just getting started.
“It’s not working that prices are going to drop. There’s not enough volume. Even with the problems in the Northeast, demand still seems to be pretty good. The orders have been met, and they seem to have found a price that works. Unless we’re really surprised, $12 for extra-large gassed green tomatoes should be OK. They seem to have a pretty market working.”
In late November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported 25-pound cartons of loose mature-greens 85% U.S. 1 or better from central Florida selling for $13.95 for 5x6s, 6x6s and 6x7s.
In late November, the USDA reported $15.95 for 5x6s and $11.95-13.95 for 6x6s and 6x7s from the west Florida Quincy growing region.
Last season, in mid-November, the USDA reported the same cartons and sizes from central Florida selling for $14.95.
Weisinger said the market should hold steady through early December.
Mexico isn’t producing much volume coming out of its summer roma deal and beginning its fall deal, which is keeping high prices fairly high, he said.
Tony DiMare, vice president of the Homestead-based DiMare Co. and other shippers said lower supplies from the Eastern Shore and California finishing its Central Valley deal helped keep late October and early November prices strong.
DiMare said he expects central Florida volume to build throughout November and increase into higher, promotable volume by late November, as normal.
He said south Florida production, centered in Immokalee, typically begins in late November and early December, with volume increasing by mid-December.
Winter production in Homestead normally starts in early January.
Bob Spencer, vice president and sales manager of West Coast Tomato Inc., said lower early season national volume helped keep prices above average.
“Some of the crops up north finished a little earlier than normal,” he said. “There wasn’t as much planted late in the northern part. So we had sort of an empty supply chain at the other end. I think a lot of customers were ready to shift over from California, so that made the transition a little easier as they were ready for them.”