Florida tomato season opens with late start, smaller volumes

12/02/2011 12:55:00 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

Madonia said tomato plants look healthy, and, despite lower overall yield, said buyers should expect high quality fruit.

“At this point, things look to be a normal deal,” he said in early November.

“It has been a very hard and expensive crop to grow, but it looks like a good crop. The quality is even better than last year.”

Wimauma-based Red Diamond Farms, a division of Tomato Thyme Corp., began entering full production in late November.

Michael Lacey, director of sales and marketing, said the grower-shipper expects to ship major volume during the first weeks of December.

“The early season rains affected fruit size and did have an overall effect on the field, but we are recovering very quickly,” Lacey said in late November.

“The second set is there and it’s producing. The quality is excellent. We are getting really great brix levels from the grapes, the heirlooms and the Tasti-Lees. The flavor profile is incredible.”

Bob Spencer, vice president and sales manager of West Coast Tomato Inc., said he looks for a typical season.

“We won’t experience bumper yields, but should have decent crops,” he said in early November.

“We have been able to grade our fruit and we have decent quality, so we’re pleased with that.”

Because of more variable weather and growing conditions, Spencer said fall harvesting normally produces lower yields than the state’s spring crops.

West Coast started harvesting mature-greens Oct. 20, about 10 days later than usual. It began its romas Oct. 24.

Spencer said he expects quality to improve each week as the harvest is further distanced from the September and October rains.

J.M. Procacci, chief operating officer of Plant City-based Ag-Mart Produce Inc., which does business as Santa Sweets Inc., and chief operating officer of Procacci Bros. Sales Inc., Philadelphia, said growers endured an unfavorable growing season.

“This past year has probably been the worst year we have had growing anything anywhere,” he said.

Procacci said north Florida suffered through drought and cold temperatures while central and south Florida sustained too much rain.

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