Movement (demand) of US tomato stocks is up 16% from June 2008 to March 2009 over the same period last year, according to the California League of Food Processors.
This increase is driven mostly by soaring international demand. From July 2008 to January 2009, exports of US paste were up 110% over this same period last year. (See graph at right.) This is remarkable since the US exported a record volume last year.
It’s likely that exports of paste will slow in the coming pack year as economics cut into the US’s price competitiveness. The dollar has strengthened off its lows last summer and California packers’ costs are up more than other exporting countries due to the raw tomato price.
With that said, there still seems to be ample opportunity for US paste in the global market. Italy is not forecasting significant increases in its production and Turkish expectations are down. China has forecast a big crop but is notorious for falling short of its expectations. Expect US exports to hold near the current high levels and not returning to pre-2007 volumes.
Despite the free-fall of the global economy, consumption of processed tomatoes is not showing signs of weakening. Processed tomatoes are one of those items people seek out when purse strings are tight.
Processed tomatoes are a flexible food, packed with flavor. They make an affordable extender to recipes and add numerous health benefits people’s diets. Additionally tomatoes are plentiful in popular, economical foods, like pizza, pasta and ketchup.