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FTC Receives Petition Requesting Free-Trade Status for UglyRipe™ Heirloom

The Tomato Magazine
December 2004

Santa Sweets, Inc., a subsidiary of Procacci Brothers, filed a petition in early November for a "Certificate of Privilege" from the Florida Tomato Committee (FTC). If granted, the Certificate would allow the UglyRipe™ to be marketed outside of Florida during this winter's growing season. The petition requests a response within 30 days.

After three consecutive years of increased winter sales for the UglyRipe, boosting it to one of the fastest and best selling tomatoes in the category, the FTC unexpectedly reversed previous decisions and stopped the tomato from being sold outside of the Florida growing area. The FTC determined that the UglyRipe must conform to the shape standards the Committee enforces. The UglyRipe, being a particular variety of tomato, is not round or smooth enough to meet the standard. The petition seeks permission to be marketed despite not meeting the shape standard.

Over half of all tomatoes sold in the U.S. are grown in Florida. During the winter months, the majority of the nation's tomatoes come from Florida. Typical Florida winter tomatoes are round, smooth, and picked green - then gassed to turn a pinkish red prior to shipping.
The FTC was established in 1955 under Federal Marketing Order No. 966, which annually regulates the Florida fresh tomato industry south and east of the Suwannee River from Oct. 10 through June 15. The Committee sets standards pertaining to the shape of round tomatoes that may be exported from Florida.

The UglyRipe became the first commercially developed heirloom tomato available year round. During the warmer months, UglyRipes are grown in New Jersey and the Southeastern U.S. But in the winter the growing shifts to Florida. Procacci Brothers spent millions of dollars on research to develop the seed, which comes from the French Marmonde heirloom variety, and wants the FTC decision reversed.

Sales of the UglyRipe more than doubled each winter during the three years that Florida-grown UglyRipes were on the market.

Headquartered in Philadelphia, Pa., Procacci Brothers was founded in 1948 and has since become one of the largest growers and handlers of fresh tomatoes in the world, handling over 275,000 tons of produce per year.

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