By Clint Thompson
Tomato prices are up. Supply is low. But that’s not necessarily a good proposition for farmers with a crop, says Josh Freeman, University of Florida/IFAS Associate Professor in Horticultural Science.
“Prices are up. Supply is tight right now. Where we would typically be sourcing tomatoes from, at least in the eastern U.S., would be kind of in central Alabama; the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee; eastern shore of Virginia; at least from central Alabama, they’ve had challenging weather conditions. The crop is short right now, and price is up. The last I heard was high teens, low 20s (per 25-pound box), which is high,” Freeman said.
“A lot of our producers don’t like to see it get that high, because when it gets that high then volume slows down. A $20 box doesn’t do you any good when you’re moving one truck a day. I think most of them would rather see a sustainable number in the mid-teens, coupled with volume.”
Freeman said last week that Florida growers were still another week to 10 days from beginning fall harvest. He estimated that growers with good volume would be pleased with a $15 price. Higher prices risk buyers not purchasing as much product as they usually would.
“I think when you get these crazy swings up into really high box prices, there’s pullback from suppliers. They just won’t offer tomatoes anymore,” he added.
How Low Can Prices Go?
Prices were as low as $6 to $7 a few months ago. Freeman said the price point for growers to break even is around $9. However, growers must continue supplying product no matter what the price is.
“A lot of producers have to supply buyers and keep a buyer in place, so they’ll still be there when the box prices are $15 and $18 a box,” Freeman said.