(Aug. 22) After breaking into fresh tomatoes via the 2003 acquisition of Maui Fresh, Santa Paula, Calif.-based Calavo Growers Inc. is now taking its foray into the commodity a step further.

Calavo Growers has reached a marketing and distribution agreement with Mexican grower Agricola Belher, said Javier Badillo, the California company’s director of diversified products. The agreement means tomatoes bearing the Calavo label will begin appearing on retail shelves this fall, he said.

Calavo anticipates sales of the tomato category for the 2007-08 season to be $20 million to $25 million, Badillo said.

In the past, Agricola Belher and a few southern California growers provided mature green and vine ripe tomatoes. The new agreement adds hothouse-grown tomatoes to the inventory, Badillo said.

Agricola Belher is based in Culiacan on the northwest coast of Mexico, an area where a potentially devastating disease — the tomato yellow leaf curl virus — has gained a foothold.

“That is an ongoing concern and that is why our focus was on an environmentally controlled atmosphere,” Badillo said. “That’s how we’re making sure that we are in position for production and quality.”

The expansion into tomatoes is one step of a planned Calavo inventory expansion, he said.

“We’re looking forward to expanding into different products,” Badillo said.

He declined to identify the other commodities Calavo is considering.