california tomato

Increased Contracted Production Forecasted for Processing Tomato Industry

Brian GermanFruits & Vegetables, Industry, Tomatoes

California’s processing tomato industry is gearing up for a strong season, with contracted production forecasted to reach 12.9 million tons, averaging 50.8 tons per acre. This projection represents a substantial 23 percent increase over last year’s contracted production of 10.5 million tons. The figure released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service also represents a two percent uptick from the May forecast.

Processing Tomato

One notable factor contributing to this positive outlook is the projected harvested acreage of tomatoes grown under contract, which stands at 254,000 acres. This figure reflects a significant 13 percent jump from the previous year, driven in part by unseasonably wet weather during the winter and spring. These conditions initially delayed planting by several weeks, but with favorable factors such as record-high tomato prices and ample water availability, contracted acreage experienced substantial growth.

Harvest activities got off to a slower start than usual, commencing in mid-July, approximately two weeks behind the average schedule. However, if dry weather persists, the harvest is expected to continue well into October. As the industry enters its peak harvest period, canneries are diligently managing logistics to ensure the consistent delivery of ripe tomatoes to processing plants. Notably, the Processing Tomato Advisory Board’s data reveals a 16 percent decrease in shipments through August 26, 2023, compared to the same period in the previous year. This decline can be attributed to the late crop start. However, expectations are for shipments to catch up and surpass figures from the past five years.

California’s processing tomato sector is experiencing a positive upswing in contracted production and harvested acreage. While weather-related challenges initially hindered the planting season, favorable market conditions and water availability have fueled growth in the industry. As the harvest progresses, stakeholders are optimistic about surpassing shipment numbers from recent years, highlighting the resilience and adaptability of California’s tomato producers.

Brian German
Ag News Director / AgNet West