Strong cannery demand and good growing conditions continue to bode well for California’s processing tomato crop.

Growers and consultants hope that reports of a cannery shortage and a banner growing season will equal a good year for their crop. With California’s tomato processors reporting estimated contracts of 11.8 million tons from 293,000 planted acres for 2007, growers are hoping for prices as high as the mid-$60s per ton.

This year’s estimated production is up 18 percent from contracted production in 2006, and planted acreage also represents a 5 percent increase.

According to USDA’s early June California Processing Tomato Report, Fresno County leads the state in planted acreage, 122,000 acres. San Joaquin and Yolo Counties ranked a distant second and third, at around 35,000 acres each.

Warm weather in early spring created ideal planting and transplant conditions and weather since then has been ideal for continued growth, with relatively light pest pressures throughout the state.

“The crop looks good in general,” says Gene Miyao, UCCE Farm Advisor in the Sacramento Valley. “Aphids are building a bit, but they’re pretty spotty. We’re also seeing russet mite activity, as usual this time of year.”

He says isolated incidences of tomato spotted wilt virus are being reported, but verticillium wilt pressures appear to be negligible.