Heavy Spring Rain Causes Significant Drop in 2017 California Tomato Harvest

The 2017 planting season in California was unusually wet, delaying planting for many spring crops. Processing tomatoes were especially impacted, with planting postponed anywhere from two to five weeks. The wet weather resulted in what is likely the lowest number of acres planted since 1991, the earliest year listed in a USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s (NASS) chart.

To put that in perspective, California grows roughly 95% of the U.S.’ processing tomatoes, and about a third of its fresh tomatoes.

For 2017, only contracted acres have been reported so far. However, contracted acres account for 99% of total number of acres planted with processing tomatoes, on average. So with 233,000 acres planted of contracted tomatoes in 2017, the total number of acres planted will likely come in between 235,000 and 237,000.

The last time California came close to that number was in 1992, with 242,000 acres planted (shown with a green arrow below).


The number of acres harvested, naturally, is at a historic low as well, with only 230,000 acres harvested. Again, a figure that low hasn’t been recorded since 1991 by NASS.

It’s not all bad news, however. The number of tons of tomatoes harvested per acre reached its highest point in 2017, at 50 tons per acre. Since the number of tons per acre has been slowly building over the years, that means that harvested tonnage dipped to only 2006 levels, when the number of tons/acre was 35.9.

In this graph, which measures the cumulative tonnage from week to week of harvested processed tomatoes since 2002, you can see a similar pattern.