Rain in Florida, labor shortage in California for tomato growers

The Florida tomato season has now largely finished for the year. Recent rains meant that it finished a little earlier than usual. Overall, the season produced a good quality crop with decent volumes, but growers noted that prices were lower.

"Rain and heat don't mix when it comes to tomatoes," said Bob Spencer of West Coast Tomato in Palmetto. "The rainfall that has fallen across Florida these last few weeks meant the season finished up about ten days earlier than we normally would. The season in general went very well. Quality maintained a high level and volume was good. The winter and spring pricing was a bit lower than usual."

California grape and cherry tomato season begins
California growers meanwhile are at the cusp of a new cherry and grape tomato season. Starting in about a week in the Fresno district, the tomato season is expected to last until November. Growing conditions up to this point have been favorable and suppliers are expecting a good crop overall, with some variance in volume depending on the variety, with grape tomato volumes expected to suffer due to the ongoing labor shortage.

"So far, the crop is looking good for the Fresno cherry and grape tomato growing seasons," said Byrne Finkle of Nat Feinn & Son. "The weather has been very good in the lead up. We are hoping for greater volume of cherry tomatoes this year, but expecting a little less for grape tomatoes. The reason is that grape tomatoes are labor-intensive and with the shortage of labor in California at the moment, there will not be enough workers."

Image: West Coast Tomato

Demand growing but freight still an issue
Both cherry and grape tomatoes are enjoying strong demand across all markets. Suppliers are hoping that the challenges surrounding the truck shortage, which is still plaguing the industry, will be overcome. "Cherry and grape tomatoes continue to see excellent demand as consumers continue to ask for them across the country and into Canada," Finkle noted. "The perpetual shortage of truck drivers will make it interesting this season as to how effectively the market can be supplied. Freight costs remain high as a result of the new rules around the use of E-Logs."

Finkle added that the current transition period is causing the market to stay elevated, with strong pricing expected to continue for a little while longer. "Currently, the market is fairly high as there is not a lot of product around at the moment," he said. "We are in a transition period right now, however there are a few areas about to start up shortly, so we might see an easing of the market as volume picks up again."

Clamshells are the package of choice for many customers, however the tomatoes continue to also be supplied in bulk packs. "We supply them in open baskets, as well as clamshells for customers who order those," Finkle shared. "The clamshells have been quite popular."

For more information:
Bob Spencer
West Coast Tomato
Tel: +1 (941) 722-4545

Byrne Finkle
Nat Feinn & Son
Tel: +1 (559) 268-7848

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