(Oct. 22, 3:35 p.m.) The inaugural edition of a United Fresh Produce Association quarterly report tracking retail produce sales reveals the deep extent of the tomato industry’s pain caused by the Food and Drug Administration’s salmonella warning in June.

“Fresh Facts on Retail,” a summary of second-quarter retail produce performance, represents the first publication of a partnership with Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh and West Dundee, Ill.-based The Perishables Group and program sponsor Del Monte Fresh Produce, Coral Gables, Fla.

The first eight-page report, released Oct. 20, shows field tomato volume sold at retail stores in June declined 43% compared to the same period in 2007.

The report indicates retail roma tomato volumes were 49% below June of 2007. Overall tomato volume dropped 16.6% in June, and tomato sales in terms of dollars were off 4.7% compared with the second quarter last year.

United Fresh communications manager Patrick Delaney said a new edition of Fresh Facts will be released every quarter.

The report for the third quarter of 2008 is expected to be released sometime in November, said Amy Smith, Wenatchee, Wash.-based account manager for The Perishables Group.

Delaney said the retail report should prove valuable.

“That’s one of the things we are really trying to advance — the resource aspect of who we are as an association and trying to get more of the learning that our membership represents and get that out there,” Delaney said.

Amy Philpott, vice president of communications for United Fresh, said the report will continue as long it is of value to the industry.

“We’ve gotten all kinds of feedback from members saying it is a great report and is valuable for every company in the supply chain,” she said.

The report, tracking produce department sales at 62% of large U.S. retailers, is offered on a complimentary basis to United Fresh members and for $50 per copy to nonmembers.

The report provides retail sales figures for the top 10 fruit and vegetable commodities, value-added items and convenience items.

United Fresh president Tom Stenzel said in a news release the report will offer important data not generally available without contracting with a research firm.

The United Fresh new Retail-Foodservice Board will help refine the report on an ongoing basis to make it most useful to members, Stenzel said.

Data highlights

The Fresh Facts report shows weekly dollar volume per store of all fresh produce in the second quarter was up 3.2% compared with the second quarter of last year. Total volume of fresh produce on a per-store basis was down 4.1% compared with year-ago figures, the report said.

Steve Lutz, executive vice president of the Perishables Group, said third-quarter numbers may look similar to the second-quarter figures.

“My guess is that the Q3 numbers look fairly similar to Q2 and, in some respects, might be worse,” he said, noting that declining energy prices won’t be fully realized in the third quarter.

Lutz said it difficult to gauge yet how the economy is changing the way consumers purchase food.

The effect may be mixed, with supermarkets benefiting from reduced traffic at restaurants but perhaps balanced by lower consumer purchases of some value added produce.

However, Lutz said second-quarter results for organic fruits and vegetables showed double-digit growth in both volume and sales.