Florida tomato shipments are increasing with improved weather, although a slow start to the season was due to Hurricane Eta.
Planted acreage and the mix of varieties should be similar to 2019. Round slicer or beefsteak tomatoes account for almost 70 percent of the crop, with plum/romas, grape and cherry tomatoes comprising most of the rest.
Florida has about 50 commercial tomato growers, all together creating a nine-month season. The tomato season in Northern Florida begins in early October, as the harvest works its way down the peninsula throughout the fall and winter.
The harvest then heads back up the peninsula to central Florida in the spring and to northern Florida in the early summer, usually ending by the Fourth of July.
West Coast Tomato, Palmetto, Fla., reports it began harvesting in late October.
The company has a packing house in Palmetto, with farms in Manatee County in central Florida and Immokalee in southwest Florida.
The USDA reports the value of Florida’s tomato production was $425.9 million in 2019 compared to $344.1 million in 2018.
That’s an $81.8 million increae while at the same time, farmers planted 2,000 fewer acres of tomatoes, from 29,000 acres in 2018 to 27,000 acres in 2019.
However, Category 5 Hurricane Michael slammed into the Florida Panhandle in October 2018, destroying tomatoes about to be harvested.
Farmers yielded 280,000 pounds of tomatoes per acre in 2018, compared to 300,000 pounds per acre in 2019.
Looking at the 2020 calendar year’s winter, spring and early fall harvesting seasons, the state shipped 35 million pounds of tomatoes through November 18, compared to 68.7 million pounds during the same time frame in 2019.