By Clint Thompson
Tomato prices remain high for those vegetable growers who actually have a crop. A lack of supply following Hurricane Ian has aided in prices exceeding $30 per box, according to Bob Spencer, president of West Coast Tomato in Palmetto, Florida.
He said Florida production is half of what it should be. Growers are still a month away from production normalizing itself.
“The reality is I would say the volume for Florida right now is probably 30% of what it would normally be for this time of the year. It was really similar to a serious freeze that used to happen years ago. We haven’t had as many freezes as we used to have,” Spencer said. “The hurricane really just knocked a lot of tomatoes and flowers off the bushes so there’s just a very limited amount coming out of Florida right now.
“You really will start to see normalcy sometime around mid-December.”
The lack of supply and subsequent high tomato prices stems from Hurricane Ian moving through central Florida on Sept. 28. Its path of destruction included tomato plants already in the ground, especially around the Palmetto and Ruskin growing areas. Prices soared to $30 per box following the storm. Spencer confirmed on Monday that prices have exceeded even that total.
“I think it’s above that now. It’s up to $32, $34 a box. It’s definitely a good market now, but again, the volume is down dramatically,” Spencer said.