The Tomato Magazine
Florida Tomato Conference Report Tomato Shipments for
the 2005-06 Season Were Down Substantially
Hot temperatures, tropical storms and hurricanes have not made life easy
for Floridas tomato industry over the past two years. Three weeks
into the 2005-06 season, Hurricane Wilma tore a destructive path through
Florida, resulting in crops losses across the production area.
So reported Reggie Brown, manager of the Florida Tomato Committee (FTC),
in opening remarks given Sept. 6 at the Florida Tomato Institute in Naples,
Fla. The institute was held in conjunction with the 2006 FTC and Florida
Tomato Exchange Joint Tomato Conference. The conference offi cially began
on Sept 5 and continued through Sept. 10.
Looking back at the 2005-06 season, damage from Hurricane Wilma ranged
from minor in some fi elds to substantial in others, Brown said. Total
shipments for the 2005-06 season were 47,880,303 25-lb equivalents, down
more than 5 million 25-lb equivalents from the previous year. During the
2004-05 season, the industry shipped 53,025,915 25-lb equivalents.
Looking at the 2006 FTC Annual Report, tomato imports from Mexico were
down 9 percent from the 2004-05 season, but Canadian greenhouse imports
were up 17 percent.
With a Florida packout of about 90 percent of the 2004-05 season,
the combined effect on the market was mixed. In the fall and winter, when
supplies were short from Mexico and Florida, and Canada was not in the
market, higher prices prevailed, the report noted. In the
spring, when Florida shipments returned to normal levels and Canadian
greenhouse shipments surged, prices declined.
Economically, the season was mixed. For those who escaped with little
damage from the weather in the fall, the season was good, and for others
it was a struggle. Average weekly prices fluctuated from a high of $25.31
to a low of $4.48, which is a decrease from the previous seasons
fluctuations that showed a weekly average high price of $38.43 and a low
The average price for the 2005-06 $12.50 averaged in 2004-05. Total cash
value of the crop was $491,539,919 compared to $662,635,750 in 2004-05
and $466,438,077.50 in 2003-04.
Food Safety Issue
With food safety a growing concern in many parts of the country, Brown
announced that the Florida tomato industry is taking a proactive approach
aimed at minimizing future problems. It is working closely with the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration, the Florida Department of Agriculture and
Consumer Services, the University of Florida and other local scientists
to help identify and prevent future outbreaks involving tomatoes and tomato
The food safety issue isnt going away, he told the audience. There
have been reports of contaminated lettuce products in parts of the country.
Of more concern are the isolated illnesses traced to cut, sliced and diced
An industry committee already is putting together a plan for voluntary
enforcement in 2007, Brown said. By putting together their own plan, members
hope to avoid having to deal with additional government regulations.
As the 2006-07 seasons gets underway, the Florida tomato industry also
faces other challenges, Brown told the group. One is whether there will
be an adequate labor supply to harvest the upcoming crop. Workers are
expected to be in short supply. A second concern is the spread of the
Q-type white fly. The pest has been found in greenhouses and nurseries
in 22 states including Florida. The Q type white fly is resistant to many
of the commonly used insecticides used for managing whiteflies.
How to best utilize reduced supplies of methyl bromide on the market also
is expected to be a concern, Brown said. It is uncertain yet how much
of the soil fumigant will be available for use this year. Spiraling energy
costs also are impacting the Florida tomato industry, the FTC manager
said. It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain profitability.
During the conference, John Himmelberg with OConnor & Hannan,
LLP, updated members of the Florida Tomato Exchange on whats been
happening in Washington, D.C., over the past year Among other things,
the multi-lateral trade agreement fell apart, he reported, and is not
expected to come together again soon. Progress on the farm bill is extremely
slow, he said, but the good news is there is likely to be a specialty
crop provision that will offer some help to growers of small acreage crops.
It will be diffi cult to obtain the whole package, but ultimately
progress in that area is expected to happen.
Immigration is one of the bigger issues, the attorney said,
and there are lots of competing interests. Congress is not expected to
do much with immigration reform until after the fall election. The Federal
Drug Administration (FDA) is taking the issue of food safety very
seriously, he warned, further emphasizin the need for the tomato
industry to be proactive. The push to have trace back all of the way to
the farm is intensifying.
Samantha Winters, the FTCs director of education and promotion,
reviewed the progress of the Committees domestic marketing program.
Last year was the fi rst time the FTC has delved into television advertising
to boost consumer awareness of the health and benefi ts of eating Florida-grown
tomatoes. The promotional program, aired over national cable TV, featured
15-second spots. The ads ran on Food Network, HGTV, Discovery Health,
Discovery Home and DIY Network. POP materials also were developed to compliment
the television ads and were offered to retailers, repackers and wholesalers
to further drive the campaign.
Winters said the committee plans to leverage its creative investment by
repeating the same 595 spots on the cable TV food network again this year.
The ads will be broadcast over six weeks instead of
eight, as was the case last year. Ads are scheduled for airing during
the first two weeks of January, February and May, 2007. Cost is estimated
at approximate $1 million.
Winters said Floridas tomato promotion program hopes to build on
the momentum of last year, market directly to consumers, generate additional
retail excitement, grow retail market share, foster good public relations
and grow export markets, particularly to Canada and Japan.
New Officers and Committee Members:
The following were named to various positions during the Joint
Florida Tomato Committee:
Executive Subcommittee: James Grainer, chairman; Jay Taylor, vice
chairman; Kern Carpenter, secretary; and Mike Sullivan, treasurer
Finance Subcommittee: Mike Sullivan, chairman; David Murrah, David
Neill and Ed English
Marketing Subcommittee: Tony DiMare, chairman; Kern Carpenter,
James Grainger, John Harllee, Larry Lipman, David Neill and Jay Taylor
Research Subcommittee: Tony DiMare, Bob Spencer, Florida Tomato
Conference Report, from page 7 Christian Leleu and Stephen Thomas
Diversity Subcommittee: Tony DiMare, David Murrah, David Neill
and Liz Esformes
Education and Promotion Subcommittee: Teena Borek, Kern Carpenter,
David Neill, Tony DiMare, Elizabeth Esformes, Joseph Esformes, John Harllee
and David Murrah
Members and Alternates:
District 1: Kern Carpenter and Tony DiMare, members; Teena Borek
and Paul J. DiMare, alternates
District 2: Patrick Engle and Thomas L. LaSalle, Jr., members;
David Neill and Stephen Thomas, alternates
District 3: Christian Leleu, Larry Lipman, David Murrah and R.
Eugene Tolar, members; Mike Sullivan, Gerry Odell, Ed English and L.J.
Nobles, III, alternates
District 4: James Grainger, Bob Spencer, Joseph Esformes and Jay
Taylor, members; Frank Diehl, John Harllee, Billy Heller and Stephen Madonia,
Florida Tomato Growers Exchange:
Officers: Larry Lipman, president; Billy Heller, vice-president;
Kern Carpenter, secretary; Mike Sullivan, treasurer; and *Reggie Brown,
Executive Committee: Larry Lipman, Tony DiMare, Kern Carpenter,
David Neill, Jay Taylor and *Reggie Brown
Board of Directors:
District 1: Tony DiMare, Kern Carpenter and Michael Borek, members;
Paul DiMare, Ed Hagan and Teena Borek, alternates
District 2: David Neill, Stephen Madonia, Sr., and Thomas LaSalle,
Jr., members; Patrick Engle, Michael Smith and Stephen Thomas, alternates
District 3: Ed English, Larry Lipman, David Murrah and Mike Sullivan,
members; Mike Schwartz, Gerry Odell, L.J. Nobles, III, and Christian Leleu,
District 4: Bob Spencer, Bill Heller, James Grainger and Jay Taylor,
members; J.M. Procacci, Joseph Esformes, John Harllee and Frank Diehl,
Florida Tomato Exchange:
Officers: Tony DiMare, president; David Neill, vice-president;
Jay Taylor, secretary; James Grainger, treasurer; and Reggie Brown, executive
Board of Directors:
District 1: Kern Carpenter, Tony DiMare and Ed Hagan, members;
Teena Borek, Paul J. DiMare and Michael Borek, alternates
District 2: David Neill, Stephen Madonia, Sr., and Stephen Tomas,
members; Clinton Stanley, Patrick Engle and Thomas LaSalle, Jr., alternates
District 3: Christian Leleu, Larry Lipman and David Murrah, members;
Ed English, Gerry Odell and L.J. Nobles, III, alternates
District 4: James Grainger, Bob Spencer and Jay Taylor, members;
Frank Diehl, John Harllee and Billy Heller, alternates. Associate Members:
Gene Akins and Don McMillen
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