(April 23) Thanks to heavier use of long-shelf-life tomato varieties, many California vine-ripe growers won’t start harvest until mid-June, shippers say.

“We don’t have anything real early this year,” said David Cook, sales manager, Deardorff-Jackson Co., Oxnard, Calif. In years past, with traditional varieties, the company had started as early as mid-May, he said.

The trend toward the long-shelf-life varieties, coupled with the limited number of tomato growers in southern Baja California, could lead to lean supplies for the early vine-ripe deal out of Southern and Baja California, shippers say.

John King, vice president of sales for Andrew & Williamson Sales Co., San Diego, expects the company to make a smooth transi-tion from its production in west Mexico to Baja California.

Still, he said the overall industry might not see heavy supplies of roma tomatoes until July.

Plus, early tomato acreage for the Baja deal may decrease this season thanks to growing concerns for water, said Danny Uribe, sales manager of Pinos Produce Inc., San Diego.

In late April, the U.S. vine-ripe deal was still largely focused on tomatoes grown in Sinaloa, Mexico. The U.S. Department of Agri-culture reported the following Nogales, Ariz., f.o.b.s for two-layer cartons of vine-ripe rounds: 4x4s-4x5s $8.35-9.35, and 5x5s-5x6s $7.35-8.35.

The same time last year, it reported two-layer flats of 4x5s at $10.15-12.15, 5x5s $10.15-11.15 and 5x6s $8.15-10.15.

The USDA reported its first California/Baja California f.o.b.s last season on June 10, when two-layer flats of 4x5s and 4x5s fetched $12.25.14.85.

This season, Andrew & Williamson got its first romas from Vizcaino the weekend of April 19, King said. On April 22, the market for a 25-pound box of romas was at $7.35, he said.

“They’re just getting going,” he said, noting that promotable volumes should be available by May 15. The company should begin shipping its No. 1 label romas, Limited Edition, by May 5, he said.

Andrew & Williamson’s first vine ripe rounds from San Quintin crossed April 22. Grape tomatoes from Vizcaino should begin ar-riving by mid-May, King said.

Frank’s Distributing of Produce LLC, Nogales, Ariz., expects to ship vine-ripe rounds from Vizcaino by around April 30 and ro-mas by the week of May 5, said Montie McGovern, co-director of the company.

He expects a smooth transition for the vine-ripes between Culiacan, Mexico, and Vizcaino. The biggest gap should be on cherry tomatoes, he said.

Uribe said Pinos Produce will begin shipping vine-ripes and romas from San Quintin around June 15 to June 20. Grape tomatoes should be available in July.

This is the second year for the company to do year-round cherry tomatoes from Baja, he said.

Uribe said California’s heavier use of LSL varieties will help eliminate No. 2 quality tomatoes from the Southern California pipe-line. Providing better quality locally should increase demand for the industry, he said

Cook said there wasn’t much incentive left for Deardorff-Jackson to come off early with traditional vine-ripe varieties. The com-pany’s experience has been that as soon as its LSL variety tomatoes start, no buyers want the older varieties.

The LSL variety tomatoes aren’t ready to harvest until early June at the soonest, he said. Mexico is also focusing more on the LSLs but is shipping more romas instead of round tomatoes, he said.

King said 90% or more of Andrew & Williamson’s tomatoes in Baja California were romas.