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Jan Potgieter – Grow BothaRoodt

Shortage of Saladette tomatoes on South African market

The shortage of tomatoes now developing on the market, after a month-long glut, is masked by low demand, says Jan Potgieter, tomato specialist at Grow BothaRoodt agency in Johannesburg (right).

This is a shoulder period in the tomato calendar, volumes have decreased considerably since the end of last week and with it, a decrease in the availability of class 1 tomatoes.

Supply from the new production regions (around Polokwane and further northeast to Swartwater and Tomburke in Limpopo Province as well as from Robertson in the Boland, plus Vredendal and Lutzville on the West Coast) is still limited.

“The shortage of class 1 fruit causes tomato prices to rise and the price would’ve been even higher if the overall quality was better, but demand is very weak,” Jan says, explaining that it is not unusual for this time of the year. November is traditionally a difficult month, he adds, and the past few days have not been exceptions.

His weekly overview of tomato trade at the Johannesburg fresh produce market shows that the price of a medium class 1 round tomato rose from R6.05 (0.33 euros) per kg last Monday to R10,30 (0.56 euros) by Saturday, in response to lower availability of high-quality fruit.

“And something that is in particularly short supply, is a nice Roma tomato,” he notes.

He has noticed a similar shortage in high-quality Saladette tomatoes at some retailers. It could be, he postulates, a result of the variety’s dislike of moist conditions, even more so than round tomatoes, in this wet summer.

“At the moment there is a premium on good quality Saladette tomatoes at the market.”

Right: Jmorkute |

Holidaying during Covid might support tomato prices at inland markets
“We hope demand will start picking up by around 14 or 15 December, as it usually does, but then usually everyone goes down to the coast on holiday. This year with Covid, and more people probably staying at home, we hope it will stimulate tomato consumption up here in the north.”

Pallets of tomatoes on the Johannesburg market floor

Tomatoes are a part of the summer menu, and winter prices never get close to the heights tomato prices can reach in summer (up to around R22 (1.22 euros) per kilogram at times, Jan notes).

Average tomato prices have increased over the past two years – the past winter saw “fantastic” prices, he says.

He already gets the sense that more producers have planted tomatoes again this season, but increased pest pressure and high cultivation costs make tomatoes a difficult crop to grow.

For more information:
Jan Potgieter
Grow BothaRoodt
Tel: +27 82 552 5345
Email: [email protected]