Tomato grower-shippers on both coasts expect continued strong demand and excellent quality.

Cold, wet weather at the beginning of the California deal is now a memory quickly receding, said Tom Frudden, sales manager for Red Rooster Sales, Firebaugh, Calif.

At the end of July, the company was making up lost time for a deal that began about 10 days later than normal.

“The quality was a little rough early, but the last three or four weeks, things have really smoothed out,” Frudden said July 25.

Fruit sold by Red Rooster from the Mendota region of California was on the small side, Frudden said. Since the deal switched to the Merced region, size has returned to normal and has been accompanied by excellent quality and yields.

The next three or four weeks should see more of the same, Frudden said.

Jeff Dolan, field operations manager for DiMare Newman, Newman, Calif., said there will still be some ups and downs in yields in coming weeks (a lingering effect of the cool spring), but that for the most part, things are back to normal.

“I’m pretty happy with where we are with the fields,” he said. “Looking forward to what’s coming down the pike, everything looks pretty good.”

On the East Coast, meanwhile, it is much the same story.

“Volumes are steady, quality is excellent and demand is very good,” said Batista Madonia Jr., vice president of sales and operations for Mulberry, Fla.-based East Coast Brokers and Packers Inc., which was shipping from Virginia in late July. “It’s a crop people want to buy.”

Madonia expects prices to hold for the foreseeable future.

“The markets are reflecting more the cost to produce it,” he said. “It’s nice to have good supply and good action on the phones every day.”

On July 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $13.95 for 25-pound cartons of mature-greens 5x6 from Virginia’s Eastern Shore, up from $12.95 last year at the same time.

Frudden also expects continued strong demand that California growers were enjoying in the early weeks of the San Joaquin Valley deal.

“We’re getting demand from all four corners,” he said. “There are some years we’re unable to get to the Northeast and the South.”

A combination of lower acreage and brutal heat and humidity east of the Mississippi has increased demand for California product, a trend that’s likely to continue as summer winds down.

“The East should have to come to the West this fall,” he said.

While demand should remain strong, Frudden said it would be “stupid” if California shippers tried to jack the price above $10 a box.

“Six or seven dollars is not bad for a California tomato,” he said.

On July 22, the USDA reported prices of $7.95-8.95 for 25-pound cartons of large mature-greens, comparable to last year.

Roma markets picked up the weekend of July 24-25 as supplies from Baja California slowed, Frudden said.

Cartons of large romas were selling for $6.95-7.95 on July 22, down from $8.95-9.95 last year.