Why Is This?
I received a call last week from a grower asking my thoughts on the low price for loose round and cherry tomatoes at present. At this time of the year, when production is typically low, prices are generally double the price they’ve achieved in the past three to four weeks.
I am not aware of any imports around, but it is a possibility, although I doubt that tomatoes could be imported for less than the price our growers are currently achieving per KG. If the low price is because of imported product they would’ve most probably been ordered in advance due to previous year’s production flows and historical prices. The only positive is that consumers can enjoy high quality NZ grown tomatoes at a low price.
The mild weather has possibly played its part in increased production. The overall temperature, especially at night, in May was great for growers who don’t heat. These growers use very minimal inputs and should be achieving much higher volumes than in previous seasons. However, last night (25/6) we finally had a heavy frost with more in the forecast (It is just as well I had Barney the pet lamb inside!) Last week I visited a property which has minimal heating that comes on at 6 degrees. The fruit, on the plant, was of impeccable quality and, even though the heads had just been removed, the set was flawless. The size, shape and colour were near to perfect. It is not something I would expect to see on the shortest day.
Low heat input tomatos picture taken around shortest day. Heads just pinched. Nomally, seting flowers/fruit in May is very difficult for crops with little or no heating. Not this crop!
I have noticed, probably due to the very low prices, growers are limiting the amount they pick and leaving fruit on the plant longer. Most probably in the hope prices will increase the following weeks. I’m unsure about this, as it slows the plant down, at this time of the year you want as little fruit on the plant as possible. If you have not carried the correct fruit load for the amount of light, the setting of fruit right now will be poor, and the amount you will pick in August will be reduced so you could might miss out twice.
Another noticeable effect, of the warmer weather, is the amount of whitefly and the number of psyllid yellows I have come across in the past few weeks. Caterpillars also, are still damaging crops.
In contrast to recent prices, March was quite the opposite with fantastic returns during a highly productive period. I can only theorise why prices are low currently, but I do believe warm weather may have contributed. I hope returns for growers increase, it is a calculated risk to grow through the winter during historically low productive months. Unless you have set contracts, for supply, at fixed prices it will always be out of our hands.
First decent frost for Auckland 25/6/2019