- François-Xavier Branthôme
Aaron Giampietro is back with another Tomato Bites update to discuss five key points Morning Star is focusing on as we head into our 2023 tomato season.
On the top of everyone’s mind at the moment are the recent winter storms that have washed over the State of California since December. These storms have delivered large quantities of rain and snow in short frequent bursts, which have helped reverse declining reservoirs levels and unleashed flooding events in both urban and agricultural areas. And while many water officials and agricultural experts caution to not read in these storms as drought busting, we see five points to watch beyond the normal news:
First, heavy rainfall on agricultural land will leach and remove built-up salts from soils. One of the major factors of decreased tomato field yield in 2022 was attributed to irrigating with deep salty well water which stressed plant development. Rainwater will not only clear the accumulated salts from the surface and root zone, but will also help both refresh and improve groundwater.
Second, reservoirs levels are increasing but on the whole still lag behind average. California’s largest reservoir Lake Shasta has risen over 30 feet (9 meters) between mid-January and December 1st, but is still at 67% of historical average. Other reservoirs like Folsom and Oroville are releasing substantial water outflows to keep levels low enough for future anticipated inflows. While this released water is helpful for improving water quality for wildlife in the Delta floodplains, it does shine a light on California’s need to show up existing levies better capture flow from high storms surges and modernize water conveyance. Reservoirs will continue to fill as Sierra snowpack, currently 175% of average, melts throughout the spring and summer.
Third, watch the timing of the storms along with the intensity; these powerful atmospheric rivers closely resemble heavy rains from 2017, which occurred in March, creating massive logistical bottlenecks in getting the tomato crop transplanted on time. If rains continue or reappear in the spring, the harvest season may be drawn out later from spring transplanting delays, along with the risk of heavy transplanting equipment causing wet soils to compact and subsequently reduce tomato field yields.
Fourth, keep an eye on California’s competing crops and growing costs. A softening dairy outlook for liquid milk in California will ease demand for higher priced forage crops. This demand shift may collide with higher dry land wheat yields and increasing supply due to good winter moisture. Prices for fertilizers input like urea have pulled back from record 2022 levels, but still remain above a five-year average. Natural gas and other fertilizer input has also steeply dropped due to a lower heating demand driven by mild winter weather in the Northern Hemisphere. All of which will make for a very dynamic situation for both agricultural production costs and prices.
And finally the California League of Food Producers recently released the December 1st, California bulk tomato paste stock levels, which points to an overall picture of stabilizing movement. When viewed in contexts of exports data, the report shows strong domestic and global demand for California processing tomatoes, which will likely drive July 2023 California bulk paste supplies between half a month and one and a half month of stock on hand. This low inventory position will require a strong 2023 California contracted tonnage around 12.5 to 13 million short tons, which we anticipate to see on the January USDA Nass intentions due at the end of the month.
You can watch the original video here
Source: Morning Star Company