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US tomato prices will probably go up due to Hurricane Ian

Last Wednesday, Hurricane Ian created a path of destruction through southwest Florida, claiming at least 100 lives and ravaging the primary winter growing region for domestically grown US tomatoes. Almost all of southwest Florida’s tomato seedlings were planted when the storm arrived, meaning that many acres will need to be replanted after basic services are restored in Lee and Charlotte Counties, which were hit hard by Ian.

Florida produces about 50% of the US’ tomato crop during October to June, with the Lee and Charlotte counties leading the state in planted tomato acreage. US tomato production shifts from California to Florida in early November, and during May, other southern states start to pick up a greater percentage of production before California’s season resumes.

In 2017, during the 16 weeks that followed Hurricane Irma, shipping volumes for Florida tomatoes dropped 55% from their level a year earlier. The per case price for tomatoes shot up 400% to $38/case by December. Pricing receded in early January 2018 as Florida’s replanted acres harvest began. A similar price pattern could unfold in Ian’s wake.


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