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Bernardi says relief in sight for tomato market

By
John Groh

A tight tomato market has defined the winter season in Mexico, but Joe Bernardi believes relief is in sight in the coming weeks. Bernardi said a number of factors contributed to the short supply through January.

“We were still seeing the effects from the Hurricane that hit Mexico in October and delayed plantings, and also there has been a shortage of water, so many growers cut back acreage in anticipation of that,” he said. “And Baja finished early this year and Florida production was down, so there was even more demand on Mexico. On top of that, the weather has been cold and cloudy, which hampered production, so there was a combination of factors working against us.”

Bernardi, a longtime veteran of the tomato business who owns and operates Bernardi & Associates, headquartered in Nogales, AZ, said it has been at least three decades since he has seen a year like this one. “I think the last time all tomato categories were this tight was 1990,” he said.

But the market was showing signs of returning to normal earlier this month, and Bernardi said supply from Mexico was picking up. “We will be in good shape until Florida picks up in March,” he said. “We’ll have a nice six-week window until then.”

Regarding his winter Nogales vegetable deal, Bernardi said it has been “up and down. We had good supplies but cheap markets, and then 10 days later the opposite with lower supplies but better prices. I expect that we’ll continue to see up-and-down markets for a while going forward.”

He said it has been a challenging year as a result, but the company has been able to stay on top of things.

“As a company, we try to plan ahead and gather as much information as we can from our regional offices,” he said. “That gives us good insight about the deal and enables us to react accordingly.”

When Bernardi spoke with The Produce News, he and his family had just hosted the ninth annual Kayla Bernardi Bee Positive 5k Fun Run/Walk, held in honor of his late daughter, Kayla, who endured multiple health issues during her short life and succumbed to leukemia in 2015 at the age of 20. The Bernardi family launched the Bee Positive Foundation in her memory, and the annual event raises money for a variety of charitable causes.

“It was just a phenomenal event this year and was our most well attended one yet,” Bernardi told The Produce News. “We had just over 1,000 people registered and 500 people crossed the finish line [of the 5k Run/Walk].”

He said a highlight of this year’s event was the after-party, which was sponsored by Dust Bowl Brewing Company and drew more than 400 attendees, who had the opportunity to sample a special Bizzy Bee beer the brewery developed for the event.

“It was an overwhelmingly successful day and we got great support from the produce industry as well,” said Bernardi. “It was a great opportunity to bring the community together for a great cause, and we have already started thinking about how we can make it bigger and better next year.”

Photo: The 9th annual Kayla Bernardi Bee Positive 5k Fun Run/Walk drew more than 1,000 attendees, making it the largest in its history

John Groh

John Groh

About John Groh  |  email

John Groh graduated from the University of San Diego in 1989 with a bachelors of arts degree in English. Following a brief stint as a sportswriter covering the New York Giants football team, he joined The Produce News in 1995 as an assistant editor and worked his way up the ranks, becoming publisher in 2006. He and his wife, Mary Anne, live in northern New Jersey in the suburbs of New York City.

 

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