Lower supplies are keeping Florida tomato prices higher than normal as the deal transitions from the winter production region to the state"s spring area.

Buyers shouldn"t expect higher volumes until early to mid-May as the ending of the Immokalee, Fla., deal is bringing lower than usual late April supplies, grower-shippers report.

Florida to produce low tomato volume until mid-MayThe deal is in a skip and growers won"t harvest any promotable volume until early May, said Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of Weis-Buy Farms Inc., Fort Myers, Fla.

"We shouldn"t see any volume until the first week of May, if then," he said April 23.

"We don"t have the same kind of crop this year and won"t have the kind of volume we"ve had in past years. These guys aren"t getting any yield off their plants. The quality will be good but it won"t be overwhelmed with volume."

If promotable volume hits, it would come in mid-May and even then, growers may harvest their crops fast, Weisinger said.

He said Mexican quality is variable.

Bob Spencer, vice president and sales manager of West Coast Tomato Inc., Palmetto, Fla., said lower Florida and Mexican supplies are keeping prices strong.

In late April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported wet fields curtailing some early central Florida harvests.

On April 23, the USDA reported these prices for 25-pound cartons of loose mature-greens 85% U.S. No. 1 or better from central and south Florida: $15.95 for 5x6s, $13.95-14.95 for 6x6s and $11.95 for 6x7s.

West Coast started its central Florida harvesting in a light way on April 22 and in late April was finishing its Immokalee harvesting, Spencer said.

Florida to produce low tomato volume until mid-MayHe said the early Palmetto-Ruskin, Fla., deal is seeing more disease pressure.

"The later product looks very good, but we"ve had more tomato yellow leaf curl virus in the first two to three weeks," Spencer said.

"I can"t make any judgment on the first harvesting because some of the fields are hurt. But by May 5, tomatoes should be going pretty well when we will get more aggressive and get into heavier production."

Though mature-greens remain in shorter supply, Tomato Thyme Corp. in Wimauma, Fla., is harvesting strong volumes of its Tasti-Lee vine-ripe as well as grape tomatoes, said Michael Lacey, director of sales and marketing.

In late April, the grower-shipper was finishing harvesting at its West Palm Beach, Fla., fields and plans to begin Sarasota, Fla., harvesting in mid-May.

"Supplies are looking good," Lacey said April 23. "All we"re hearing around is there are all kinds of diseases and disasters with others experiencing inventory loss and crop failure. We haven"t had any of that. This is one of our best crops in years."

Lacey said Tomato Thyme"s central Florida production appears to be ahead of schedule and should bring high quality.

For cherry tomatoes, the USDA reported flats of 12 1-pint baskets from the same growing regions selling for $9.95-11.95.

On grape tomatoes, the USDA reported $8.95-10.95 for flats of 12 1-pint containers with lids and $18.95-20.85 for 20-pound cartons of loose.

Romas fetched $13.95 for the 25-pound cartons of loose, according to the USDA.


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