Which tomato demands a price premium: the greenhouse tomato or the field-grown tomato?
I think we all know which SHOULD demand a price premium, if taste were the only variable. But, alas, it’s not, so let’s take a look at the facts.
First, the results of this week’s farmers’ market scan:
Prices for greenhouse tomatoes ranged from $3.00/lb. to $4.75/lb., with a price dispersion of 58%. The mean (average) price was $3.85/lb., the median price was $3.88/lb. and the mode price was $4.00/lb.
It’ll be interesting to see the prices of field grown tomatoes when they start coming to market in July & August.
Because field grown tomatoes are so clearly a superlative product and scarce; they’re only available for a short period of time each year and very much in-demand when they come to market. Based on those variables, field grown tomatoes should certainly demand a higher price.
So, what’s the problem?
All of the field grown inventory floods the market at once, and the public can only consume so many tomatoes at once (canning and preserving aside). By contrast, the select farms selling greenhouse tomatoes in the first week of June were in the minority – no more than 1-2/market – and with limited inventory. Because of our pent up demand for fresh, local tomatoes, and the relative scarcity at the markets, the greenhouse tomatoes were fetching a fairly high price. I’ll be curious to see if that price premium extends to the field grown tomatoes when they arrive on the scene, or if the sudden in-flux of inventory on the market will move prices lower.
The next couple of months will shed some light on which factors have the greater impact on market pricing: product quality or supply/demand factors.
In the mean time, the chart below illustrates what the different revenue impacts of the prices seen at the market would be for different volumes of greenhouse tomatoes: