The increased cost of energy, which has hit many greenhouse growers hard, is also felt in the tomato market. In European countries like the Netherlands, these increased growing costs are eating into the profit margins of growers, despite high prices on the market. This situation, however, is seen as an advantage for some countries with a milder climate, who need less energy to grow, such as Turkey. In Italy, increased competition of this nature is affecting prices on the domestic markets. Meanwhile in Spain and South Africa, adverse weather conditions have pushed down production in some areas, with Spain being hit by high temperatures in the summer, and South Africa currently facing heavy rain and even hail in some northern growing regions. In China and Brazil, there are also issues, but these are unrelated to the weather. Epidemic control measures in China, and political unrest in Brazil have made it hard to get the product where it needs to go. As many parts of the globe head into winter, it remains to be seen how the market will continue to develop.
Netherlands: Prices back up, but high costs affect profits
In the Netherlands, after a dip in tomato prices in August, the price has found its way back up.
To what extent growers really benefit from this, with costs also rising, is the question. Wageningen University & Research estimates the increase in growers’ turnover this year at about 5%. Volumes entering the market were lower, which resulted in higher prices. Besides income from tomato sales, some growers also managed to generate revenue from electricity sales thanks to their CHP.
Meanwhile, many growers have moved to crop rotation. For some growers, greenhouses will (again) remain empty longer than normal this winter. Exposed and heated cultivation this winter has shrunk considerably. However, some growers are opting for so-called autumn cultivation, which allows them to harvest product towards Christmas in greenhouses with minimal heating. Growers are also increasingly looking at the possibilities of cultivation in more southern regions such as Spain and North Africa.
Another area of concern for growers remains the Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV). The virus is present at 41 companies, according to the latest official figures. Efforts are being made to introduce resistant varieties and vaccines are also being sought. In the latter case, only authorised parties are allowed to work on this, although growers cannot move fast enough. Meanwhile, with strict hygiene measures, they are trying to keep the virus out or at least in check. Another option is to switch crops. Several growers have (also) started growing strawberries, cucumbers or peppers.
Germany: Prices up to a third higher than last year
A large number of countries are involved in current sales. However, the Netherlands and Belgium dominated. Morocco and Turkey are sending mainly round tomatoes, Italy mainly cherry tomatoes, Croatia and Spain mostly vine tomatoes. In general, the quality was not always convincing. In some places, a wide price range was established for some varieties. In general, prices are sometimes (depending on variety and origin) up to a third above the previous year’s level.
France: Unbalanced supply and demand pushes down prices
The origins currently present on the French market are the following: France, Belgium and Holland which are at the end of the season with also the beginning of the new harvest in France, Morocco, Spain and a little supply from Turkey.
Currently, supply and demand are unbalanced: With all these origins present on the market, there is too much supply compared to a demand at half mast. The wholesale markets are very calm. Consumption is low but this is valid for the whole fruit and vegetable sector. This drop in consumption can be linked to the season but also to inflation and to the general atmosphere which is not conducive to consumption. This imbalance causes prices to fall.
Quality-wise, it’s difficult to define because there is everything on the market, between those who don’t sell fast enough, those who are at the end of the season with less good categories, and those who are in the new season with a good quality.
The situation may be difficult for another 2-3 weeks, but we can hope for a recovery in January.
Italy: Tomato production continues to rise, but so does outside competition
The tomato is the leading fresh vegetable in the purchasing basket of Italian families. This is also thanks to a wide range of segments (round, ribbed, cherry, plum, beef heart) and different uses (sauce, salad, snack).
Over 22.8 million households bought tomatoes in the last 12 months ending September 2022, at least once. The average expenditure per act of purchase is increasing, rising from around €2.00 to over €2.3 (GfK Consumer Panel data). This increase concerns the conventional product, while organic tomatoes tend to remain stable.
An Ismea analysis shows that tomato production is around 1 million tons, growing slightly, even over the long term (+9.5% in 10 years), while per capita annual consumption is around 18 kg, also growing, with +12.9% over the decade. In first place in terms of production is Sicily, with about 40% of the surface area and 25,000 hectares, followed distantly by Lazio and Apulia.
After a summer production marked by a heavy lack of product, the Sicilian table tomato sector is entering the markets of half of Europe with an excellent winter production, both in terms of quantity and quality. The campaign will enter its peak in a couple of weeks.
“The production situation in general has improved because ToBRFV is much less of an impact, thanks on the one hand to the introduction of varieties tolerant to the virus, and on the other to the ability of producers to live with the problem after years of severe troubles. In 2022, the damage caused by excessive heat was greater, resulting in a 50% drop in yields,” an entrepreneur reported. “The prolonged heat throughout Europe also led to increased competitive pressure from all producer countries, especially those that were able to continue with harvests to the bitter end because they were advantaged by unusually mild weather. To these we must add Morocco and Turkey, whose export figures have been growing in double digits since 2021: they are increasingly exporting their goods to central and northern Europe because, with the ongoing conflict, they have had to give way on trade with Russia. Their massive presence on European markets is marked by lower prices than those in Italy (which have become less competitive) thanks to much lower labour costs. Prices are around €1.30-1.40/kg, just above production costs.”
Spain: Unstable climate leads to irregular season
The tomato acreage has increased in Almeria this season, although not as much as the sector initially thought. Growers planted more vine tomatoes having in mind the forecasts for the Dutch productions in winter, which were expected to be significantly lower due to high energy cost. The acreage of round tomatoes has decreased as Morocco keeps gaining ground and other specialty varieties have grown instead. The forecasts have been still far from reality, as the Netherlands, Poland and Hungary have extended their seasons and the demand for Spanish tomatoes is still low. At the same time, Morocco has already a big availability. The Spanish exporters expect the Netherlands to end at the beginning of 2023, although from these weeks on the production will progressively go down.
Tomato is usually a stable product in in terms of production, but this year has been so far irregular due to an unstable climate. The temperatures have been too high during summer and fall, which contributed to good volumes until now, and also to a bigger presence of pests, unfortunately. But in over the last few days it has been getting colder and that will slow down the production. Prices are expected then to go up in the coming weeks, as they are currently below costs and profit margins are non-existent.
Turkey: High energy prices in Europe could be advantage for Turkish tomatoes
Turkey produced 185 million tonnes of tomatoes in 2021 and is the third largest producing country, after China and India. The country’s overall average is 11 to 13 million tonnes. Turkey is the world’s fifth country with a percentage of 7-8 percent of tomato export. Main markets are Eastern European countries Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia, also Israel and middle eastern countries. Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine and Russia, which has led to a reduced energy supply to Europe, energy prices have increased in Europe. This has affected greenhouse production. Therefore, it is predicted that there will be high demand for import tomatoes. Turkey could be one of the preferred countries to buy the tomatoes from. The tomato harvest amount is high this year, especially beef, tori, vine, (organic and non-organic) cherry, and cocktail varieties will be in high supply.
South Africa: Higher prices, but heavy losses due to weather
South Africa has had a tremendous amount of rain recently, plus hail in some places like in the North West Province where some tomato farmers have sustained heavy losses.
However, last Tuesday a large amount of tomatoes arrived on the municipal market and prices decreased by almost 25% as a result of higher supply. The average price is now R8/kg (0.45 Euro) for class 1 tomatoes, around R6.65 (0.37 Euro) overall in Johannesburg, while in Cape Town the tomato price per kg was R10.20 (0.57 Euro) at the same time. In general, tomato prices are higher than last year at this time and the coming summer holidays should stimulate tomato demand.
China: Prices rise due to new epidemic control measures
Eastern China’s vegetable prices are expected to continue to rise. Current epidemic control measures implemented across the country are making it more difficult for trucks to enter and exit regional vegetable production and marketplaces.
Xinjiang in the Northwest is another important tomato production region. This week’s trading prices hover around 4.50 Yuan per kg, or 0.63 USD per kg, for wholesale tomato prices.
In Miyun, North of Beijing, fresh greenhouse tomatoes have just entered their harvesting period. Miyun is a tomato production center with an annual output of over 3 million jin, or 1.8 million kg. In recent years, local government has invested in Miyun’s tomato production, including handing out subsidies for greenhouse construction and agricultural materials. Prices hover between 20 and 40 yuan per jin, or 2-5 USD per 0.6 kg.
North America: Thanksgiving dip, but prices remain high
At the beginning of November retailers were actively filling their stores with tomatoes, but the demand is slowing down going into American Thanksgiving. This is how one grower-shipper expects things to continue for the next two or three weeks.
The weather conditions in Florida and Baja California have had a negative affect on the amount of Roma, Beefsteak, Grape and Cherry tomatoes that are available. Though this is not the case for all tomato varieties. “Tomatoes on the vine and mixed cherry tomatoes are abundant in the market,” said the grower-shipper.
Another grower-shipper in Florida says tomatoes out of the state are still in very short supply. “The weather definitely affected the availability for a while,” he says. “We have had good rain and now cool weather is affecting what was good down south as far as sizing and quality of fruit go.”
In turn, he expects it will take until mid-December or even January for things to get back to normal. “It’ll be very short on tomatoes and very expensive,” he says, adding that Mexico is also seeing cold weather and it is also short on supplies so a lot of green tomatoes are also coming up from Mexico. “At this time of year, the truck rates become very high and adds to the price delivered to the customer anywhere from $.50 to a dollar more a case,” he says.
While Roma, beefsteak, grape and cherry tomatoes are in short supply, it is highly likely prices will remain elevated. Greenhouses in British Columbia are reaching the end of the season, but California and Mexico produce year-round. “Those markets will come down generally when the West Coast of Mexico starts to ramp up production coming into December,” he adds.
He anticipates that tomato demand will increase a little by Christmas before strengthening in January. Consumers tend to look for healthier options in January but “serving this demand can be a challenge as tomato production is at its lowest in the winter months,” said the grower-shipper.
“Tomato demand is slowing down with American Thanksgiving, but that shouldn’t last long as we come into the holidays, though inflationary effects could influence that demand,” said the grower-shipper.
Brazil: Prices up in November due to political unrest and temperatures
The first week of November was marked in Brazil by the political unrest that paralyzed the country after the results of the presidential elections were known, in which Lula da Silva narrowly won over Jair Bolsonaro. In addition to causing discomfort in a nation divided by the protests – fuelled by a complex electoral campaign in which the spectre of fraud from the Government itself, finally fined 4 million dollars by the Superior Electoral Tribunal, has not stopped stirring up – the blocks in the roads had an impact on the economy and on products as basic as tomatoes.
In fact, at the beginning of November the flow of tomatoes was hampered and many trucks carrying the product ended up stopped on the roads. According to Hortifruti/Cepea, in the centres monitored by the entity, on Monday, October 31, it was reported that “the entry of fruit was very low, which caused a significant rise in prices. On Tuesday, November 1, with the intensification of the blockades, no entry of tomatoes was registered and the only plant that reported sales on that day was Ceagesp (SP), which reported the sale of a small amount of fruit left over from the day before.”
“In view of these factors, the week ended with rising prices in all wholesale markets: in Ceagesp (SP), tomatoes were sold at R$ 78.33, an increase of 36.58% compared to the previous week; in Belo Horizonte (MG), prices were R$ 86.57, 42.24% higher; in Rio de Janeiro (RJ), prices were at R$ 82.22, an increase of 24.37% and, in Campinas (SP), prices were at an average of R$ 100.00, a 23.28 % taller.”
With the end of the blockages on the roads, the flow of tomatoes and harvesting activities returned to normal in the last days in the second week of November. “However, contrary to expectations, the volume of fruit offered during this week was considerably lower compared to the previous week,” explained Hortifruta/Cepea. “The previous week, due to the high temperatures, the ripening of the fruit accelerated and the harvests were brought forward. Thus, with the milder weather that week, the number of ripe tomatoes in the fields was very low, which ended up creating a shortage of the product in the markets.”
In view of this, the week ended with rising prices in most of the wholesale markets: in Ceagesp (SP), tomatoes increased by 13.29% compared to the previous week; in Belo Horizonte (MG), 9.68%, and in Campinas (SP), prices rose 23.33%.
The third week of November, with the rise in temperatures, the fruit ripening process returned to normal and the volume harvested increased. “As a result, prices began to fall on Thursday 17th. However, despite the devaluation observed in the last days of the week, the weekly price average rose again in all the Centers monitored by Hortifruti/Cepea.” In Ceagesp (SP), the product rose 14.55% compared to the previous week; in Campinas (SP), they increased by 8.1%; in Belo Horizonte (MG), 15.15%, and in Rio de Janeiro (RJ), prices closed with an increase of 28.48%.
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