Mexico continues to grab market share in greenhouse tomatoes. The country now supplies 78% of U.S. imports of tomatoes grown under cover, up from 50% in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
While the import market for greenhouse-grown keeps expanding — up 11%, while tomatoes overall are down 9% — Canada’s volume has not kept pace. Imports of greenhouse-grown tomatoes from Canada were down 3% through August, the USDA reported Oct. 27. Canada’s market share has fallen to 21%, from 47% in 2005.
On the broader tomato market, Florida acreage has been trending down over time, from 17,100 acres in 1999 to 6,000 harvested this fall. Florida has been hurt by lower-cost supply from California and by greenhouse-grown product such as Mexico’s imported romas.
Mexico exported about 1.1 billion pounds of tomatoes to the U.S. from last December through March, down from about 1.4 billion the year before, according to data from the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, Ariz.
The drop was due in large part to a February freeze.
In late October, the bulk of the Mexican crop was starting to set.
“Sometime after Christmas there should be good and steady supplies,” said Jon Esformes, operating partner of Nogales, Ariz.-based Pacific Tomato Growers.
“Depending on the weather, we don’t expect a lot of volume to come until after Dec. 15. There are greenhouse operations in Jalisco shipping before then, but not Sinaloa.”
Farmer’s Best International, Nogales, planned to shift into Sinaloa in early December after shipping some tomatoes out of Torreon, said Steve Yubeta, vice president of sales.
Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. is receiving product in Nogales out of Hermosillo into mid-December, but starts in Culiacan around Dec. 1, said Greg Cardamone, general manager of vegetables.
L&M plans a major boost to its roma tomato production.
“I’d say probably 50%,” Cardamone said.
In Baja, San Diego-based Andrew & Williamson plans to begin sourcing tomatoes out of La Paz, and extending its season in Vizcaino. The bulk of product still comes out of Culiacan, Sinaloa.
Nogales-based Del Campo Supreme plants grape and roma tomatoes in open fields but generally focuses on protected agriculture, said Jim Cathey, general manager.
“Our round and beefsteak tomatoes are grown hydroponically and sold as greenhouse,” Cathey said.
“Our romas and red peppers are grown in a shadehouse and we pack that as a field product.”
“If it’s not grown hydroponically, we don’t consider it greenhouse product,” he said.
“A substantial portion are not labeling it that way. Some people feel that if they throw a shade over the top they can call it whatever they want.”