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Technology, Policy, and Market Adaptation Mechanisms for Sustainable Fresh Produce Industry: The Case of Tomato Production in Florida, USA

Saoli Chanda (), Mahadev Bhat (), Kateel G. Shetty () and Krishnaswamy Jayachandran ()
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Saoli Chanda: Department of Earth and Environment, College of Arts, Sciences, and Education, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA
Mahadev Bhat: Department of Earth and Environment, College of Arts, Sciences, and Education, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA
Kateel G. Shetty: Department of Earth and Environment, College of Arts, Sciences, and Education, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA
Krishnaswamy Jayachandran: Department of Earth and Environment, College of Arts, Sciences, and Education, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA

Sustainability, 2021, vol. 13, issue 11, 1-23

Abstract: Tomato ( Solanum lycopersicum L.) is an important vegetable crop in Florida, a state located in the south-eastern region of the United States. The state is the second largest producer of tomatoes in the country and contributes to almost 90% of the domestic winter tomato supplies. However, tomato farmers in Florida have come under increasing pressure due to climate changes, foreign imports, and rising production costs. The purpose of this paper is to analyze whether Florida tomato growers will continue to sustain their production given the seasonal and geographic production advantage, yet against various internal and external threats emerging throughout the fresh produce supply chain. We developed our study on a multi-disciplinary conceptual model of network (supply chain) relationship and primary and secondary data gathered from various stakeholders and the literature. We found that Florida farmers have done remarkably well by adapting to warming temperatures and changing consumer expectations about environmental sustainability and responsible labor practices. However, foreign competition, labor shortage, the rising costs of inputs, extreme weather events (hurricanes), and pests and diseases due to humid climate continue to affect the sustainability of the Florida tomato production. Our paper suggests various farm-, market-, and institution-level adaptation mechanisms for preventing the regional production advantage of the Florida tomato industry from eroding. Newer immigration laws are necessary for easing the labor situation. In order to have a level playing field with respect to the use of protected agriculture technology such as in Mexico and Canada, U.S. farmers in general and Florida farmers in particular need government support. Florida farmers need to diversify their fresh produce market strategies, finding new product streams. There is also a need for reforming the product certification landscape, which some growers find cumbersome and cost prohibitive. Growers may gain from being better able to convey to consumers the information regarding their effort put into environmental sustainability, workers welfare, and safe food.

Keywords: tomato; Florida; environmental sustainability; fair food; produce supply chain (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: O13 Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2021
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