Tomato shippers look to spring rebound

03/05/2014 09:34:00 AM
Andy Nelson

As she has with many other commodities this winter, Mother Nature has thrown a wrench in the Florida and Mexico tomato deals.

Movement has been affected by adverse weather since shortly after Thanksgiving, said Tony DiMare, vice president of Homestead, Fla.-based DiMare Co.

“Demand has been a challenge, with all the weather around the country — and we’re still experiencing it,” DiMare said March 3. “It’s been a rough season.”

Rick Feighery, vice president of sales for Plant City, Fla.-based Santa Sweets and Philadelphia-based Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., had a better report for Florida- and Mexican-grown grape tomatoes.

“There’s been some interesting winter weather, but sales have been fairly good,” he said. “All things considered, we’re happy with where we are.”

In Mexico, meanwhile, the roma deal has been sluggish this winter, said Jaime Chamberlain, president of J-C Distributing Inc., Nogales, Ariz.

“I don’t think we’ve moved all of our crop,” he said. “A lot of it is staying in Mexico. It’s been very, very tough, and I don’t see very much change in this pattern in the next month.”

Chamberlain is more hopeful about Mexican vine-ripe markets.

“The vine-ripe deal is very different,” he said March 3. “We’re right smack in the middle of our peak, and we should see a steady decline beginning in about two weeks. We hope to see a little better market — it could be this week.”

On March 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $13.95 for 25-pound cartons of loose mature greens 5x6s from Florida, comparable to last year at the same time.

Two-layer flats of vine-ripe 4x4s-5x6s from Mexico were $7.95-9, down from $10.95 last year.

With spring just around the corner, DiMare was optimistic that business would pick up.

“Once the weather straightens out, we expect demand to get back to normal,” he said.

Supply also has been a challenge at times for Florida tomato growers this winter, DiMare said.

“We had a lot of rain early, then 10 days of cold weather, which impacted yields,” he said.

In late February and early March, DiMare was in the middle of a period of lower volumes that could be traced to a cold snap earlier in the season.

Sizing in early March also was slightly down because of the cold, he said.

By mid-March, DiMare said volumes should be back to normal.

Grape tomato yields have been “pretty good” out of Mexico and Florida this winter, Feighery said.


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