PALMETTO, Fla. — This season’s Florida tomato season is shaping up to be a normal deal. Growers in central Florida began light harvesting of grape and cherry tomatoes in mid-October.

After a disappointing 2011-12 season, grower-shippers are hoping lighter national volume and larger demand make for a better 2012-13 season.

Central Florida tomato deal starts as normalLower Eastern Shore acreage in late September and early October kept prices a little higher than typical, said Tony DiMare, vice president of Homestead-based DiMare Co.

DiMare said Mulberry-based East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc.’s departure from Virginia helped keep prices for 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens from Virginia at $11.95 for 5x6s and 6x6s and $9.95 for 6x7s in early October, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

On Oct. 29, the USDA reported $15.95 for 5x6s and $11.95-13.95 for 6x6s and 6x7s from the west Florida Quincy growing region.

That’s up from $10.95-12.95 for the 6x7s the USDA reported in mid-October as the Quincy deal began.

Last year in mid-November, the USDA reported 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens 85% U.S. No. One or better from central Florida selling for $14.95 for 5x6s, 6x6s and 6x7s.

In late October, DiMare said he expected demand to remain similar as supplies remain limited while Quincy finishes and central Florida ramps up fall production.

DiMare began harvesting grapes and cherries in light volume on-time in mid-October with promotable volume expected to hit in early November.

DiMare said quality is reported as good.

Despite receiving much rain during transplanting, DiMare said buyers should expect a normal central Florida crop.

“From a crop standpoint, everything’s on-schedule,” he said in late October. “The fruit set is good. It’s normal to a little above normal for this time of the year. Disease pressure is minimal.”

West Coast Tomato Inc. began harvesting Oct. 23.

“We are starting out with a little more volume in some places earlier than normal,” Bob Spencer, vice president and sales manager, said in late October. “We normally start a little slower but we started with good volume and good market, which makes for a nice combination. You don’t get enough of that nowadays.”

DiMare said Florida acreage should be similar, with only minor adjustments that shouldn’t affect the state’s normal overall volume.

Spencer said West Coast added a small amount of acres.

DiMare said last season was disappointing, perhaps the worst season he’s experienced in his 30 years in the business.

He said winter prices were disastrous as central and south Florida produced good-quality, bumper crops.

“Prices were such you couldn’t pick a lot of tomatoes,” DiMare said. “You couldn’t get a lot of money for them.”

For cherry tomatoes, the USDA on Oct. 16 reported flats of 12 1-pint baskets from Mexico crossing into Southern California selling for $10.95-12.95.

Last year in central Florida, the USDA reported $13.95 for flats of 12 1-pint baskets.

On grape tomatoes, the USDA reported $6.95-9 for flats of 12 1-pint baskets medium-large and $12.95-16 for 20-pound cartons of loose, medium large from Southern California coast and Mexican crossings at Otay Mesa.

That’s lower than the $13.95 the USDA reported for flats of 12 1-pint baskets and $25.95 for 20-pound cartons of loose, medium large from the Eastern Shore of Virginia in mid-October

Last year in mid-November, central Florida grape tomatoes marketed for $12.95-13.95 for flats of 12 1-pint containers and $23.95-25.95 for 20-pound cartons of loose.

Romas from Southern California coast and Mexican crossings at Otay Mesa in late October sold for $8.95-11 for 25-pound cartons of loose extra large with $7.95-9 for large and $6.95-8.95 for small.

Central Florida romas last season in mid-November saw 25-pound cartons of extra large selling for $13.95-14.95, $12.95-13.95 for large, $12.95 for medium and smalls selling for $11.95, according to the USDA.

Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC, Wimauma, planned to begin harvesting its grapes and cherries in early November.

“They look really good and are really healthy,” Jeff Williams, president, said in mid-October.