OVERVIEW GLOBAL TOMATO MARKETNovember 9, 2020
In Europe, the supply of tomatoes from the Netherlands and Belgium grown in unlighted plantations is declining. Imported tomatoes, such as those from Spain, where the acreage has been reduced again, are currently also reaching the market again, and there are also batches from Morocco and Turkey. In South Africa, many tomatoes have hit the market within a short period of time due to the weather conditions, which has put some pressure on prices. In North America, Florida is seeing an increase in the supply for the domestic market, and in China, the greenhouses have started planting and harvesting 2 months earlier due to a reduction in the tomato harvest from the open ground.
The Netherlands and Belgium: ‘Gray’ season for tomatoes
The Dutch and Belgian season is coming to an end for the unlighted crops. That of the lighted ones has already been underway for a while. Imported tomatoes are now also reaching the Netherlands and Belgium.
The results achieved domestically were bad for a long time and growers and traders were heading towards a “gray” season. In the spring, the coronavirus caused a shock wave and led some people to overstock, but the panic quickly worn off. Subsequently, things remained difficult and the growers selling mostly to the catering and food service industry struggled to get rid of their products at good prices, especially in the case of the larger sizes of beef tomatoes and loose tomatoes.
At the end of August / early September, the price situation changed and the average one increased compared to the five-year average, but that could no longer make up for the rest of the campaign. Prices were better in September and October, both for loose and on the vine tomatoes, with the latter appearing to have done slightly better than the loose ones throughout the season.
The import season in the Netherlands and Belgium has meanwhile got off to a slow start in recent weeks, with another reduction in the tomato acreage in Spain, and Morocco as an increasingly important player with products like snack tomatoes, for which various lines are running with major players in the market. The supply of tomatoes from Spain arrives later than, for example, that of cucumbers or peppers.
Germany: Pressure on prices due to cheap imports
Recently, there has been some movement in the supply, partly due to the declining shipments from the Netherlands and Belgium. Meanwhile, the supply from Turkey, Morocco and Spain continues to increase. These are generally cheaper than the Central European goods, which is also why prices have fallen. The poorer quality of the supply is another reason for the negative price development.
The harvest is also still underway in the domestic greenhouses, although the supply from German growers still contrasts sharply with that of the neighboring countries. However, considerable investments are made in German tomato cultivation. A Southern German cultivation company that also supplies retailers recently put a hypermodern greenhouse complex with LED lighting into operation. Last month, the first tomatoes from this lighted greenhouse could already be harvested.
France: Falling prices for loose tomatoes
October has been a fairly quiet month in terms of sales. The domestic production has been sufficient and prices have been reasonably good, so there has been little competition from imports, especially in the case of vine tomatoes. The situation is also quiet for loose tomatoes. There are French tomatoes available, but Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland are also still on the market. Loose tomato prices continue to fall. Spain and Morocco are gradually entering the market. In general terms, the consumption of tomatoes is quite low; first of all, because of the end of summer, as people tend to eat fewer tomatoes when winter comes, and also because of the closure of restaurants in France. Last week, the market was more dynamic after the president’s speech announcing a second lockdown, but this increase in consumption has quickly slowed down.
Italy: The demand exceeds the supply due to low yield
Half of the Italian tomatoes come from the island of Sicily. Due to the coronavirus, but also to the low yields in Italian fields, the demand in Italy is currently greater than the supply. The disappointing yields are due to the weather conditions and the impact of a number of diseases, such as the Tomato Brown Rugose Fruit Virus (TBRFV). This has resulted in a low supply of large-sized red tomatoes. In some areas, the production deficit is estimated at more than 40-50%.
As for pomodori tomatoes, especially in Apulia and Campania, industries have had to close prematurely due to a lack of raw materials. Yields fell below average because of climatic issues. In Northern Italy, there has been a slight drop in the production volume of good quality loose tomatoes. In the processed product segment, a twofold situation emerged during the pandemic: the retail sector saw a boost in sales, with high prices and demand, while trade in the hospitality collapsed dramatically. Now there are no stocks left. Also, the volume in the 2020/21 campaign will be lower than in 2019/20; therefore, retail traders foresee an increase in prices.
Spain: Spanish tomato production keeps decreasing
The acreage devoted to tomatoes has been reduced again in Almería, which confirms the downward trend of recent years. The tomato production could fall by about 20% compared to last year, especially in the case of loose tomatoes. The higher production costs, the spread of pests and the payment of prices with tight margins have been the main reasons for Almeria’s growers to focus more on other products, such as peppers and courgettes, which have much lower production costs. Up until week 44, tomato prices, as well as those of other vegetables, with the exception of eggplants, remained high. From week 45 onwards, prices have started falling little by little, coinciding with the holiday of November 1 and the increase in the production due to the higher temperatures. In about two to three weeks, large volumes from Morocco will hit the market and there will be more competition for Spanish tomatoes.
So far, vine tomato prices have been very high and tomato specialties have been about 30% more expensive than last season. The exception is the loose tomato, which is cheaper. This tomato, widely produced in Morocco and Spain, has lost a lot of market share in Europe in recent years. Fortunately, despite increasing competition, Morocco isn’t able to provide a consistent supply of plum, vine and other kinds of tomatoes. This also applies to other products, like peppers and zucchini, with which Spain still dominates. The pandemic seems to have had a positive impact on the consumption of tomatoes and other vegetables.
Turkey: Price currently slightly higher than last year
About 550,000 tons of tomatoes are exported every year. The season started just 2 weeks ago in the Fethiye region, in the South West of the country. This is later than usual, and the reason for that was the rainfall. Prospects point to a 20-30% increase in the tomato production. Larger volumes and higher prices are expected around Christmas. At the moment, the quality is not yet optimal. Prices are slightly higher than last year, with an increase of about 5-10%. However, export prices should be 10% lower than in previous years due to the currency. The cheaper tomato prices are mainly a result of the larger volumes available.
For the Turks, the market is clearly split into two, with good paying, but demanding markets on the one hand, and lower paying, but also less strict markets on the other. When it comes to the former, the main ones are Germany, Poland, the Baltic States, Belarus, Russia, the UK and most other European countries. Lower quality often goes to Romania, Iraq, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.
South Africa: Tomato influx caused prices to fall
The South African winter has delayed the ripening of the tomatoes, but due to the recent heat, tomatoes are now ripening everywhere at the same time and large volumes are available. This has put some pressure on prices and caused the market price to fall by a third. The supply increased by 46% in the previous week, but traders appear to be succeeding in dealing with this influx.
During the lockdown, prices reached very high levels. The average market price is now 7.30 ZAR (0.38 Euro) per kilo. In general, the summer demand is strong, but not as much expected.
South African tomato cultivation still faces a number of challenges in disease control. The tomato leaf miner (Tuta absoluta), in particular, has become a serious pest in recent years (it was previously unknown in the country). The whitefly is also ravaging the tomatoes. These diseases have made producing much harder than before, especially for small growers, who find it more difficult to set up alternating control methods in order to fight the tomato leaf miner and prevent it from becoming resistant.
United States: Supply from Florida on the rise
The domestic supply of tomatoes has started in Florida. The supply looks stable and started about 10 days ago in Central and South Florida. “The yields are pretty average for the fall,” said a tomato grower from the region. The yields are slightly better than last year. Traditionally, there is always a dip in the tomato production at the end of October and early November due to the weather conditions, but week after week the yield seems to be improving. The grower in question therefore expects to obtain 4-5% more tomatoes. There was some fear of a shortage of workers due to the coronavirus, but things seem to be going well so far on that front, with crops harvested on time. Another challenge is looking for new varieties that are better able to cope with the diseases affecting the crop.
California’s season has finished and only Canadian greenhouse crops and some small batches from Mexico still play a role. However, the latter often returns to the market with large quantities in January.
The demand is currently stable in the retail sector, but a few varieties, such as loose tomatoes and the Roma, are mainly intended for the food service, where uncertainty currently reigns, as the measures against the coronavirus differ per state. So far, the price has been comparable to last year’s, but the sector remains cautious, as the development of the campaign will still depend on whatever measures are implemented.
China: Rising prices on the market, growth in greenhouse cultivation
The coronavirus has had a major impact on tomato production in China, but things have generally been kept under control. Since May, the market situation has returned to normal, with more consumers paying attention to the quality of the food. The online sale of tomatoes has increased, especially that of tomatoes in the luxury segment, such as cherry tomatoes. Extra attention has been paid to this sales channel.
The price is generally higher than in previous years. This is the result of the bad weather conditions in July and August. Because of this, the yields in open ground tomato plantations have fallen sharply. As a result, the supply is smaller, while the demand remains fairly stable, causing prices to rise. Due to the high demand at the moment, many greenhouse growers have started planting two months earlier than last year. As a result, the prospect is that it will be possible to supply the market with tomatoes for nine months. The Chinese government plans to further stimulate greenhouse cultivation in China in the coming years because the yield from the open ground is uncertain due to the weather conditions and the pandemic.
Australia: Tomatoes thrive during the pandemic
In Australia, Sydney Markets wrote in a recent weekly market report that during the pandemic, tomatoes will remain an essential product for most households, as numerous tomato varieties are on offer. Cherry tomatoes in particular have been sold for $ 2- $ 2.50 per container, while specialized varieties, like kumatoes, cost $ 4- $ 6 per container, and tomato mixes are marketed for $ 4- $ 8, depending on the size of the container.
New Zealand: Price hit record high in August
Tomato prices in New Zealand soared to a record high in August, with a weighted average price of 13.65 NZD / kg (€ 7.79), according to Stats NZ. The report said that this was due to a supply shortage caused by the uncertainty generated by the coronavirus, which means that many growers have slowed or reduced the replanting of tomato crops at this point. About 40-50 percent of tomatoes are sold to independent grocers, cafes, and restaurants, which were unable to open during April’s COVID-19 alert levels 3 and 4. Tomatoes NZ also reported that fresh imports in 2019 were significantly lower, with 175 tons, compared to 524 tons a year earlier.