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FPAA: Record winter tomato prices contradict price suppression claims

Banner for the Tomato Suspension Agreement with tomatoes and the US and Mexico flags.

(Nogales, AZ) – During a recent winter tomato season characterized by poor weather, very limited shipments, and record pricing of $40-plus per carton, Florida’s tomato sector nonetheless continued to claim that “U.S. growers’ prices are being suppressed.”

In a submission to the U.S. Department of Commerce (Commerce) on Feb. 29, 2024, the Florida Tomato Exchange (FTE) BB #:162441 reiterated its request to terminate the Tomato Suspension Agreement, which has governed tomato imports from Mexico for over 25 years.

The FTE hinged its entire request on the following chart, which focuses on a sliver of the market:

click chart to expand

The FTE sent Commerce the chart literally on the heels of some shippers (including FTE members) having issued “Act of God” letters stating that supply was so limited and prices were so high they would not be able to meet their commitments.

Yet, despite facts to the contrary, the FTE went on to suggest to Commerce that during the recent winter vegetable season “Mexican tomato imports are rising, and U.S. growers’ prices are being suppressed.”

But according to leading tomato industry stakeholders, the FTE submission focused on a single pack type for only one (roma) out of several tomato types covered by the Tomato Suspension Agreement, and its analysis failed to acknowledge the market impacts of weather in all major growing areas, and the historical context in the roma market specifically.

Most glaringly, the stakeholders said, the FTE failed to acknowledge the unprecedented tomato market pricing during the 2023-2024 season, when tomato prices were at times $30-40 a box, well above the minimum price of $8.30 that is required by the Tomato Suspension Agreement.

The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas BB #:144354, NatureSweet, Mastronardi, Texas International Produce Association, and the Mexican Tomato Growers Associations all submitted rebuttal comments to the recent FTE submission. Below are highlights from their respective comments:

Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
• The FTE’s submission cites U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data only on roma tomatoes, but not any other types of tomatoes – round, specialty (cherry, grape), stem-on tomatoes, tomatoes on the vine. The complete absence of any discussion of the price conditions for round tomatoes is notable because FTE members have traditionally relied overwhelmingly on producing open-field round tomatoes that were sold predominantly to foodservice customers. Despite FTE’s wailing, the USDA AMS published shipping point pricing data that shows prices for Florida-grown round tomatoes (and for grape tomatoes) have been near record highs throughout the winter season.
• Roma tomatoes, like other certain types of tomatoes such as stem-on and tomatoes on the vine, are not grown in significant quantities by U.S. growers and have long been supplied mainly from Mexico. U.S. growers only recently have entered the roma tomato market, but still are a very small minority presence. Currently about 85% of all roma tomatoes are shipped from Mexico.
• Several large FTE members are trying to gain increased access to the roma market not by trying to adopt protected agriculture methods and grow them in Florida or elsewhere in the United States, but rather by buying out Mexican companies that produce, pack, and distribute roma tomatoes.

Mexican Tomato Growers Associations
• The FTE’s renewed termination request makes sweeping claims about the U.S. tomato industry based on extremely limited data related to a single tomato variety shipped in one pack type. The Tomato Suspension Agreement concerns several different tomato types shipped in hundreds of different pack types.
• The FTE’s renewed termination request only supports the fact that the Tomato Suspension Agreement is working as intended by stabilizing prices in the U.S. tomato market. In fact, tomato prices for several varieties – including Florida-grown tomatoes – have reached record highs in recent months.
• The FTE’s renewed termination request is detached from the reality that FTE members are highly profitable, continue to expand in areas other than U.S. tomato production, and have invested vast sums in Mexican tomato production.


• The FTE renewed its request to terminate the Tomato Suspension Agreement based on the claim that Mexican tomatoes were again flooding the market this winter season and stealing their market share. The FTE’s claims are divorced from reality and intended to increase prices to line their pockets with profits. These are the facts:
o In the past 3 months, there has been a significant and sustained SHORTAGE of tomatoes in the market, resulting in some of the highest prices recorded for tomatoes on the shelf if the consumer could even find them.

o The FTE’s issues are the result of bad weather affecting their crop production this season. This has nothing to do with imports. It does reflect a failure on their part to invest in facilities and production techniques to grow better tasting, better quality product.

o The current Tomato Suspension Agreement maintains minimum import prices, inspection, and quality controls to ensure only fairly priced, good tasting, ripe tomatoes are imported. It is not supposed to ensure Florida producers maintain dominant or controlling market share – that is reserved to the judgment of the consumer.

Texas International Produce Association

• Fifteen different articles from various industry media sources, covering a range of time from March 2024 back to October 2023, mention weather conditions being the cause of the supply issues in both Mexico and Florida, and market prices being elevated and expected to remain as such until the supply situation improves. These conditions impacted the entire tomato industry.

• According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the USDA, which together provide figures for tracking fresh produce imports, growers in Mexico shipped 79.2 million fewer pounds of fresh tomatoes during the period September 1, 2023 to March 1, 2024 when compared to the same period the year prior. That is nearly 2,000 tractor-trailer loads fewer than the year before. The data contradicts the FTE’s statement regarding a flood of imports, and instead shows that Mexican tomato imports were in fact trailing the previous years by a substantial amount.


• U.S. demand for fresh tomatoes is strong and far exceeds U.S. production. With a U.S. national high tech, controlled environment agriculture greenhouse supply base and extensive distribution network, Mastronardi understands the critical role that imports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico serve in order to supplement U.S. supply to provide fresh, healthy produce to U.S. consumers throughout the country.

For more information, please visit the FPAA’s official website at Or contact our office at 520-287-2707 or Lance Jungmeyer, 520-903-4314.

About FPAA:
Founded in 1944 in Nogales, Arizona, the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas has grown to become one of the most influential agricultural groups in the United States. Today, the FPAA provides a powerful voice for improvement and sustainability by serving the needs of more than 100 North American companies involved in the marketing, import, and distribution of fresh produce. For more information, visit

Contact: Lance Jungmeyer or Allison Moore at (520) 287-2707