Record Processed Tomato Crop Sought

Despite water shortages in California where 96% of the nation’s processing tomatoes are grown, U.S. tomato processors expect to contract for 13.9 million short tons in 2009 — up 14% from a year earlier and 8% above the 1999 record. According to a USDA report, although production was relatively robust in 2008, export demand for tomato products, especially paste, was well above average during calendar year 2008, providing a foundation for strong wholesale prices and higher contract prices for U.S. tomato growers in 2009.

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The USDA also reported this week that the fresh-market area for harvest for 11 selected vegetables was forecast to decline 4% to 194,200 acres this spring (largely April-June). Prospective area was down for 8 of the 11 crops, with the greatest percentage declines for cauliflower, cabbage, and carrots.

California, which accounts for more than half of spring vegetable area, expects to harvest 6% fewer acres, with much of the reduction occurring in carrots, broccoli, and head lettuce crops. Although scarce and more costly this year, water is not expected to be a limiting factor in fresh-market vegetable supplies this spring.