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Tucson sees jump in tomato prices

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Tomato shortage

Tucson sees jump in tomato prices

Florida cold snap affects U.S. supply

  • A tomato shortage in Florida has had a large impact in Arizona.
    Manjith Kainickara /FlickrA tomato shortage in Florida has had a large impact in Arizona.

Harsh winter weather in Florida has affected tomato prices across the country, including Tucson.

While Tucson gets its tomatoes from Mexico, a cold snap wiped out nearly three-quarters of Florida's crop. That means Mexico's crop has gone up in price.

Local businesses are feeling the pinch.

"It's basic supply and demand and the price has gone up," El Charro manager Tom Knipe told KVOA.

Some fast food places, such as Wendy's have stopped putting tomatoes on sandwiches unless the customer asks for them.

"We're at the mercy of Mother Nature," Denny Lynch, Wendy's spokesman, said in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "But we feel it’s the smart thing to do to let customers know, because we don’t want them to be surprised."

While the price increase might not be good new for Tucson diners, it's great news for the local economy.

With Florida out of the market, supply-and-demand issues have raised the average wholesale price for a box of tomatoes going through Nogales to about $24 to $26, Allison Moore, communications director of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, based in Nogales, Ariz., told the Arizona Daily Star.

Normally at this time of year that price would be about $10 to $12, she said.

"What people in Tucson may not realize is, this is benefiting a lot of Arizona importers and companies," Moore added.

She said the produce industry employs 12,000 to 15,000 people in Arizona.

The shortage could mean losses of as much as $7 million a week for Florida growers, Reggie Brown of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, told

“After a demand-constricting event like high prices or lack of availability, we don’t have demand, and prices plummet, and we lose serious amounts of money,” said Brown. “We just really agonize over seeing market share given up to our imported competitors in Mexico.”

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Nationally, most of the smaller tomato varieties have been spared, said Phil Lempert, editor of the Lempert Report, an industry newsletter that focuses on supermarket, restaurant and agricultural trends. The larger tomatoes, such as beefsteaks, have been hardest hit, and in some grocery stores in the Northeast, the price has already doubled on these larger types, he said.

"I'm telling people to pass on the fresh right now, and just pick up a can of crushed tomatoes for your burgers," Lempert told the Times. "They taste better and it'll be cheaper."

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