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Summer tomato market rising

While the phrase “dog days of summer” wasn’t coined to describe the summer tomato market, it could have been. As July heats up, small regional tomato deals and backyard plants start to flourish, causing a significant drop in demand for commercial producers reflected by a low tomato f.o.b. prices.Tomato-field-day-10-copy

“We haven’t seen that happen yet,” said Lyle Bagley of Pacific Tomato Growers, which is headquartered in Palmetto, FL.

Speaking from Virginia on July 25, where Pacific Tomato is sourcing its summer cherry and grape tomatoes, Bagley said demand for commercial tomatoes all over the country remains strong. “We have a rising market,” he said. “We see it in the East and the West (where Pacific Tomatoes also has a deal).”

On the other side of the country, Wade Ellis of Bernardi & Associates, who was in Turlock, CA, had the same report. “Demand is good. This time of year growers typically plan for summer demand to fall and plant less. So right now we have less volume but we still have the demand.”

He said a $9 market in late July for gassed greens is a strong market indeed, and $17-$21 for vineripes and Romas also indicates a very good marketing situation.

Neither tomato salesman was willing to predict that the market would hold through August but they liked the direction it was going. August is typically the month when the homegrown deals have their biggest impact. While it is impossible to measure, backyard gardeners with a tomato plant or two do collectively impact the f.o.b. price. Tomatoes are a ubiquitous item on most shopping lists week in and week out. If enough shoppers remove them from the list for a few weeks, demand drops.

For August, weather forecasters have predicted above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation across the country. The U.S. corn crop and other Midwest grains are expected to suffer. However that doesn’t necessarily correlate to what will happen to local and backyard tomato deals. Only time will tell. A true assessment of this year’s homegrown deals will be possible around Sept. 1.

In the meantime, the San Joaquin Valley will continue to harvest mature greens through October and into November. Baja California and San Diego County in California currently have vineripes and other tomato varieties and will continue producing for a couple of months. There are several other deals around the country, including Pacific Tomatoes’ Virginia deal.

For the next six to eight weeks, these deals, as well as backyard tomato plants, will have to fill the demand. Florida is expected to get back into commercial production in a significant way in October, with Mexico chiming in later in the fall.

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