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US: Tomato prices steady with lull in supplies

After a summer of low prices for beefsteak tomatoes, prices for the commodity have risen as some states have finished harvesting. But prices could come down again as supplies pick up in Florida.

“This summer had one of the worst tomato markets I've seen,” said Greg Styers of Bejo Seeds. He pointed to high yields, spurred on by favorable weather, for the low prices. With so many tomatoes on the market, prices took a steep drop.

“Prices are good right now, but I knew of growers that couldn't pick some of their tomatoes because of the market,” said Styers. He added that prices for a box of tomatoes is usually just below $20.00, but this summer brought prices as low as $4.50 for a box. It wasn't until supplies from the Carolinas and Virginia dropped that prices began to climb. That upswing began in October, and Styers believes that current prices, which hover near $22.00 a box, will remain until the middle of November, when large supplies from Florida hit the market.

“Volumes from Florida should pick up sometime in the second week of November from Sarasota,” said Styers. “It's hard to say how the market will be until then, because just a few inches of hard rain at the wrong time could transform a good season into a bad one.”

In addition to traditional beefsteak tomatoes, Bejo Seeds markets their own brand of Tasti-Lee tomatoes. The variety, developed by Dr. Jay Scott and licensed out of the University of Florida, is sold as a firmer, more colorful and tastier option to traditional tomatoes. The vine-ripened tomato also contains more lycopene than traditional varieties.

“We're a seed company, and we generally breed our own tomatoes, but Tasti-Lee is so unique that we licensed it and have the exclusive rights to the seed and to the name,” said Styers. Bejo Seeds works with seven partners across the country who grow, pack and ship the product to retailers. That the variety can also be grown in a wide range of conditions also means Bejo Seeds partners are spread out all over the United States. That network has allowed them to put Tasti-Lee tomatoes in over 30 retail locations in the United States and Canada. The product has, so far, been well-received, and Styers credits the tomato's taste, appearance and health content for that.

“This is a true vine-ripened tomato, and what sets it apart is that it has a consistent color and 50 percent more lycopene than most tomatoes,” said Styers. “I would put it up against any hothouse tomato.”

For more information:
Greg Styers
Bejo Seeds
+1 805 473 2199