California’s tomato processors reported they have or will have contracts for 11.7 million tons of processing tomatoes for 2008, according to the USDA/NASS California field office. This is of May 15.

This production is 2 percent less than the contracted production of last year.

The May contracted acreage of 277,000 is 4 percent less than the January intentions forecast of 288,000 acres and 7 percent below last year’s level.

Fresno County retains the top spot over all the counties in contracted planted acreage for 2008 with 103,000 acres. Yolo County grabbed the No. 2 position with 37,000 contracted planted acres. Rounding out the top five counties for contracted planted acreage in 2008 were San Joaquin, Kings, and Merced.

This year’s processing tomato crop is reported to be about a week behind schedule. Transplanting of tomatoes began in early March. The frost in mid-April caused spotty damage, with most of the damage in Colusa County. Also, greenhouses in Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties experienced frost damage which caused a waiting period for replacement plants. Dry conditions and high winds have had a negative effect on plants and increased irrigation costs.

There was no indication of major quality issues or insect problems.

This early processing tomato estimate is funded by the California League of Food Processors, in cooperation with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The USDA estimate for all states will be issued on July 10.