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ORLANDO, Fla. - After enduring the wrath of four devastating hurricanes, the Sunshine State's beloved tomato crop is close to resuming normal volumes, according to shipment data from the Florida Tomato Committee.
As little as two weeks ago, Florida tomato growers were packing 35 percent of what is typical for the season. Now, as shipments are steadily increasing, volume is projected to be built up to normal volumes by the third week of December, according to the tomato committee.
Although Florida growers have seen yields almost half of what they should be,
“the tomato quality is remarkably good and our supplies are increasing steadily," said Reggie Brown, manager of the Florida Tomato Committee, who said his organization expects prices to begin responding to the uptick in supply in the next two to three weeks.
That’s good news for supermarket shoppers, 80 percent of whom purchase tomatoes several times a month, and 42 percent of whom purchase tomatoes on a weekly basis, according to Brown. With an annual average national contribution of more than 7.5 percent to total produce department dollar sales, the tomato category packs a powerful punch for the all-important produce department, he noted.
The damage to Florida's tomato crop, along with unseasonably wet weather in Mexico, has made for a very unique situation in the United States. To date this season, Florida tomato growers have packed about 50 percent of the total packed last year during same time period. "With this unusual weather phenomenon, we have truly seen trying times here in Florida - the likes of which we hope not ever see again," said Brown, adding, "we certainly appreciate the support of our customers as we pick ourselves up from the aftermath of these devastating hurricanes."
Florida is the nation's largest producer of fresh tomatoes. With almost every southern county in the state cultivating tomatoes, Florida produces virtually all the fresh-market, field-grown tomatoes in the U.S. from October through June each year, and accounts for about 50 percent of all fresh tomatoes produced domestically.