On Tuesday, March 24, a local broker says, everything changed. From brokers, orders stopped and everything got quiet. Wednesday, the 25th, super-quiet.
Since then tomato volumes are down 85 percent, green beans are like 50 percent, cabbage is like 50 percent. R.C. Hatton has plowed under 100 acres of green beans, around 2 million pounds, and 60 acres of cabbage, or 5 million pounds.
Florida’s tomato growers target 80% of their production to restaurants and other food service companies, rather than to supermarkets. In this sector, growers are walking away from big portions of their crop. Tony DiMare estimates that by the end of the growing season, about 10 million pounds of his tomatoes will go unpicked. Some crops like potatoes and oranges are faring well, other produce isn’t selling like it used to.
With a lot of people staying home and buying mostly comfort foods, products like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, have actually slowed down incrementally,” said Chuck Weisinger, president of Weis-Buy Farms, Inc. The biggest challenge we have right now is getting the stores to start buying,” said John Stanford, farm manager at Frey Farms.
As you know produce is highly perishable and three weeks into this many companies around Immokalee have already had to empty their coolers and dump produce. One dumped 20,000 lbs a day last week, let that sink in… 20,000 pounds of tomatoes a day. They dumped a total of 100,000 lbs so far. This is from one farm.