A lack of water has prevented California growers from planting as many processing tomatoes – or has caused them to plant at the expense of other commodities.
Tomato processors report contracts for 11.7 million tons grown on 234,000 acres, down from the January forecast of 12.2 million tons, according to the California Farm Bureau. Last year’s production ended up at 10.8 million tons, the organization reports.
Mike Montna, president and chief executive of the California Tomato Growers Association, told the Farm Bureau that California’s crop has averaged about 6.9% below USDA estimates for the past three years.
While the USDA anticipates 5,000 more acres of processing tomatoes this year, Montna says growers may be fallowing fields set aside for other crops.
As canneries combed the Central Valley for growers with reliable water, the price of a record $105 per ton was announced in February -- perhaps the earliest greed-upon price for California canning tomatoes in the last two decades.
Montna told Farm Press the negotiated price between farmers and the canneries reflected an understanding that tomato supplies and water are short, while demand remains strong.