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TOMATO BITES by Morning Star - June 2, 2023 Release

07/06/2023 - Press release , François-Xavier Branthôme - 2023 Season
Morning Star colleague Aaron Giampietro is back with another TOMATO BITES by Morning Star update. This release focuses on the latest findings of the May 2023 USDA National Agriculture Statistic Services report, which reveals an anticipated increase in planted acres compared to January’s statistics. Due to a wet winter and spring in the state, water allocations reached 100%. However, this also resulted in consistent fluctuations in tomato transplant schedules. With transplanting approaching completion and a long season ahead of us, Morning Star will remain highly focused on yields.

The USDA National Agriculture Statistics Services reported revised processing tomato contract intentions in the latest report released May 31st, adding to a remarkable and truly unprecedented transplanting season in California. In late January, California tomato processors indicated an expected 12.4 million paid short tons (11.25 million mT) from 248,000 acres (100,360 ha) for an average yield of 50 paid short tons per acre (112 mT/ha); the latest report shows the same field yield estimate with the expectation for 12.7 million paid short tons (11.52 million mT) from 254,000 acres (102,790 ha), with the only change being the addition of 6,000 acres (2,400 ha).


California tomato processors successfully maintained and grew acreage, what we believe to be the most meaningful information within the May NAS report, after the news of spring flooding. Kings County the heart of revived Tulare Lake has substantially reduced tomato acreage, in exchange for large increases in Fresno and Kern Counties.
Abundant surface water, strong market demand for processed tomatoes, historic low supply and weak competing crop economics, saw growers changing crop this spring or bringing online new or previously fallowed land.
This year’s crop is highlighted by the 21st April announcement of 100% surface water allocation for growers from both Federal and State Water Project. This allocation is a stunning reversal from what was the final 2022 allocation of just 5%. The flush water situation this year allows processing tomato acreage to ramp up while the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act continues to clamp down on groundwater pumping on the long path of sustainable use. The record Sierra’s snowpack is still lingering in the high elevations, sitting at six times the historical median for this time of the year.


While there has been brief spikes of high temperatures in the spring between January and April, the state has experienced its 17th coldest period compared to the median years 1900 to 2000. 
Spring weather variability in the state continues to swing tomato transplant schedules. These swings cause large peaks and valleys in planting, which leads to trickling harvest readiness in the early part of the season. The near term weather conditions are very favorable to finishing the delayed transplanting season by June 15th, about two weeks later than budgeted. For plants already in the ground, plant stands are good and growing progress in meeting expectation. With transplanting nearly complete, there is a lot of time between now and the final ton processed; field yield will likely struggle to meet the May NAS’ estimate. When considering the early crop delayed start, the mid-crop harvest forecast exceeding factory capacity and the late crop hanging into a large two digit percentage in October at risk for rain, with each part of the 2023 season promising to be challenging in its own right, it looks like October may have the final word. 

We continue to watch these dynamics as well as changes in tomato growing input cost, competing crop alternatives, and California water outlook in shaping our preliminary 2024 crop production and sales plans.

Some complementary data
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Source: Morning Star 
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