NAPLES, Fla. — At this year’s Joint Tomato Conference, Florida’s tomato grower-shippers learned how they can better supply a major fast-food restaurant operation and heard the latest on the tomato suspension agreement.
In a Sept. 4 discussion on tomatoes in foodservice, Michael Spinazzola, president and chief operating officer of San Diego-based Diversified Restaurant Systems Inc., which buys fresh produce for Subway, discussed the challenges of procurement.
He said Subway tries to procure from as many growing regions as possible and each week sources about 150,000 cartons of tomatoes, 42,000 cases of bell peppers and 20,000 cases of cucumbers.
Subway places six slices of tomatoes on every foot long sandwich but its franchisees want to reduce to four slices, especially during shortages and high markets, Spinazzola said.
“We are on the opposite sides on some of the challenges we both face,” he said. “Florida is a very important piece of our business and we hope we can be a stronger piece of your business. As it’s not getting any easier for any part of the supply chain, being able to work together is what we’re trying to do.”
Judy Rudman, director of bilateral agreements, enforcement and compliance for the Department of Commerce’s Import Administration, updated grower-shippers on the 2013 U.S.-Mexican tomato suspension agreement which sets floor prices for Mexican fresh tomatoes during the summer and winter.
“We have seen real progress since the agreement went into effect March 14,” she said. “Implementation of an export licensing system by the government of Mexico is resulting in broader coverage of Mexican tomato imports. Everyone’s afraid of being that first PACA (Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act) violator.”
Sponsored by the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee and the Florida Tomato Exchange, the Sept. 2-5 convention attracted nearly 400 participants, up from recent years.