Demand for Florida-grown field tomatoes is strong, even after the Thanksgiving holiday. “Typically, it’s pretty quiet coming off Thanksgiving, but business is better than usual this time around,” says Tony DiMare with DiMare Fresh. While demand is relatively normal, the strong market is mainly supply driven as tomato availability has been impacted by weather. “While Florida’s production has been somewhat impacted, previous storms have caused a reduction in supply in Mexico,” added DiMare.
As a result, prices on all tomato items have been elevated with prices on grape and cherry tomatoes being the strongest due to the lack of supply. “They both are in a demand-exceeds-supply situation.” DiMare expects the strong market to continue through Christmas and the first of the New Year.
Round type tomatoes and Roma tomatoes from the 2023 Ruskin, FL tomato crop.
Impact of inflation
What’s different this season compared to previous years is the effect inflation is having on overall demand for produce. “The inflation situation is continuing, and I feel produce is not necessarily a staple item. If the price of a tomato or other vegetable item is too high, consumers simply switch to another vegetable variety that is more affordable, or don’t purchase the item at all.” Inflation has resulted in consumers becoming more price conscious. They are limiting their expenses and are focusing on buying staple items first. “Without question, inflation has a big effect on consumer choices,” said DiMare.
At the moment, the Palmetto/Ruskin region in Central Florida is in production. The Florida season started mid-October and will continue through the end of May. “We are now over 60 percent done with the Fall crop,” said DiMare. From there, production will move to Southwest Florida, to Immokalee/Naples for the mid-winter crop. This season will extend through mid-February. Winter production will move to the Homestead area in the southern part of the state for the winter deal. Harvest in Homestead will start around the first of the year and extend through mid-April. By mid-April, production goes back to Central Florida for the spring crop. That season will finish at the end of May, early June.