One may ask: why is the California tomato industry already signaling a 2021 pack year tightness, with the new season still over four months away? We are at a point in our planning where we have a good view of what tonnage is possible to achieve for the upcoming season; acres are booked, and seedlings will start going into the ground shortly. Our industry is also tracked quite carefully and has good transparency of industry data, such as historical consumption averages (usually referred to as movement), and the collective US tomato industry inventory position published by the California League of Food Producers (CLFP). Numbers are always translated back to equivalent tons of fresh tomatoes in industry talk, making our position easier to review.
No one can predict the future, but we are able to tell you what we see right now. Taking into account the industry inventory position communicated by the CLFP on December 1, 2020, the five-year average historical movement patterns (which typically see a slowdown in the second half of the year), and knowledge of Morning Star’s own position and how it relates to the industry, we forecast a June 1, 2021, US total industry inventory of 3,485,000 equivalent fresh tons.
We expect the 2021 California crop to be about 11,750,000 tons and the rest of the US adding 500,000 tons for 12,250,000 tons of total production. Add the June inventory, and we see the industry heading into next year with 15,735,000 tons in the barn. History points to an annual movement close to 12,740,000 tons; however, Morning Star expects to experience a 600,000-ton loss of industry exports, landing us at a consumption of 12,140,000 tons for 2021/2022. This would leave the US industry with 3,595,000 tons in inventory on June 1, 2022.