No easy solutions for Florida tomato growers

01/16/2012 10:39:00 AM
Tom Karst

Mexican greenhouse tomato imports have ramped up again this season, and some Florida growers are calling foul.

Here is the USDA weekly shipment summary for tomatoes through Jan. 8. The report shows that imports of Mexican greenhouse tomatoes so far this season  total 11.7 million 25-pound packages, up from 7.1 million packages the same time a year ago.

Meanwhile, Florida tomato shipments so far this season totaled 13.1 million 25-pound cartons, down from 17 million cartons plus at the same time last year.

Market prices on Jan. 13 were just about $5.95 per carton of mature green tomatoes in Florida, compared with $15.95 per carton in mid-January a year ago. Prices were low despite the Jan. 3-4 freeze in Florida, which nipped vegetable production in some growing areas.

Mexican greenhouse tomatoes crossing through Nogales were $5.95-6.95 per 25-pound carton on Jan. 13, down from $10.95 per carton the same time a year ago.

One Florida tomato broker I talked with today said that the Mexican greenhouse tomato imports have had a telling impact.

"(Mexican greenhouse volume) has grown so much that I'm not even Florida realizes how much market share they have taken."

For an even for a more complete look at U.S. tomato imports. Check out this spreadsheet of U.S. tomato imports by month

To back up our broker's point, USDA statistics show that U.S. imports of Mexican greenhouse tomatoes have increased from 25,600 metric tons in January 2006 to 60,500 metrics in January 2011.

How will Florida growers combat the erosion of market share? There are no easy answers.

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Follow me on twitter @tckarst

E-mail me at tkarst@thepacker.com



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