By Clint Thompson
Tomato prices are high right now for producers. They should be able to take advantage for a couple of more weeks, if they have a crop. “If” is the operative word, because supply is low.
Bob Spencer, president of West Coast Tomato in Palmetto, Florida, attributes the low supply to the Christmas freeze event. Growers experienced significant bloom drop, which led to reduced yield.
“We had about a three-or four-week period of higher supply and the market dropped. But what we’ve started experiencing about a week ago and probably is going to last a couple of more weeks is a lighter supply as a result of the extremely cold weather we had during Christmas,” Spencer said. “When it gets really cold, you’ll have some bloom drop on your plants. When they don’t freeze, they make it through, but you just have a much lighter yield a lot of times.
“I would say (supply is) 30%, maybe even 40% below what we would normally have at this time period. It seems like Mexico has been a little lighter, too. I think they’ve had some colder weather, although it’s a little harder to predict what’s going to happen there.
“(Two weeks ago) we were probably down 20% or 30% from the week before, and we’re probably down another 20%, 25% (last) week. It’s a lighter supply, and hopefully, we’ll be able to make this higher market work a little while.”
Spencer said the short supply should last a couple of more weeks before production returns back to normal yields. For now, growers can profit from an advantageous market. Spencer said they were asking $15 per box for extra large tomatoes, up significantly $4 to $5 from the prior week.