PALMETTO, Fla. — Florida’s fall tomato season is producing smaller-than-normal supplies and buyers shouldn’t expect bigger volumes to begin until around Thanksgiving.
Palmetto-Ruskin production is running lighter than normal and south Florida’s harvesting in Immokalee is also late, said Chuck Weisinger, president and chief executive officer of Fort Myers-based Weis-Buy Farms Inc.
Buyers shouldn’t expect Florida volume to start until late November with promotable volume expected to begin in early December, he said Nov. 11.
“Prices are high, product is not overabundant and demand is flat,” Weisinger said. “There just hasn’t been a lot of product. Some of the guys have had fair volume but no normal volume this year. We have no crops and there’s no demand. I’m not sure what people are doing, buying clothes or stocks but they sure aren’t beating the doors down for tomatoes.”
Immokalee Produce Shippers Inc., ran its first load on Nov. 10 and in Palmetto, Pacific Tomato Growers Ltd., Taylor & Fulton Packing LLC, and West Coast Tomato Inc., ran a smattering of volume, he said.
Packing was also limited at the Homestead-based DiMare Co.’s Ruskin packinghouse, said Tony DiMare, vice president.
In early and mid-November, DiMare was in promotable volume on grapes and planned to begin volume on mature greens in mid- to late November after beginning harvesting light volumes in late October, he said.
Quality remains high but the deal started slowly, DiMare said.
“Volume continues to be light,” DiMare said Nov. 11. “Volume this week in Florida is lighter than the week before. Several shippers didn’t pack yesterday, including ourselves, and some today again were not packing. Volume is picking up a little more and will steadily increase as each week goes by.”
Coming off high f.o.b. and retail prices, mature green prices in mid-November had started to decline, DiMare said.
In mid-November, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported these prices for 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens 85% U.S. 1 or better from central and south Florida: $19.95 for 5x6s, $18.95 for 6x6s and $16.95-18.95 for 6x7s with No. 2s selling for $17.95-18.95 for 5x6s, $16.95-17.95 for the 6x6s and $15.95-17.95 for the 6x7s.
In mid-November last year, the USDA reported these prices from central and south Florida: $15.95-16.95 for 5x6s, $13.95-14.95 for 6x6s and $11.95-12.95 for 6x7s with No. 2s selling for $13.95-14.95 for 5x6s, $11.95-12.95 for the 6x6s and $10.95 for the 6x7s.
On Nov. 10, the USDA also reported 603 40,000 pound units of central Florida mature greens being shipped through Nov. 9 compared to 674 40,000 pound units shipped to date the previous season.
West Coast Tomato began harvesting mature greens and romas on Oct. 21, about a week earlier than normal, said Bob Spencer, vice president and sales manager.
Spencer said the weather is now more favorable for tomato production.
“We may have had a little higher production last year at this point, but we didn’t have anywhere near the market, which is 10-30% above normal for this time in the fall,” he said in mid-November. “It’s definitely been a good fall so far and we should have pretty decent production from here on out.”
For cherry tomatoes from central Florida, the USDA in mid-November reported $11.95-13.95 for flats of 12 1-pint baskets, higher than last year in mid-November when those flats sold for $10.95-11.95.
On central Florida grape tomatoes, flats of 12 1-pint containers with lids in mid-November marketed for $9.95-11.95 while 20-pound cartons of loose grapes sold for $18.95-21.95.
Last year, the flats sold for $9.95-11.95 while the cartons fetched $19.95-21.95.
For romas, the USDA in mid-November reported 25-pound loose cartons of extra large from Florida selling for $22.95-23.95 with large going for $21.95-22.95 and mediums at $20.95-21.95.
Last year in mid-November, the USDA reported $14.95-15.95 for extra large.
In mid-November, DiMare had finished harvesting rounds in California after most other shippers had finished, DiMare said.