The Scary Reason Tomatoes Are Under Attack

Move over bacon and the sky-high prices people are paying for this beloved savory pork because it's the tomato and tomato-based products' turn to steal the spotlight and put a dent in the wallets of this fruit on the vine favorite. Tomatoes are a pantry staple for many households. Aghires notes that people in the United States eat an annual 31 pounds of these beauties. Even if you don't eat them whole or in their fried green tomato form, chances are you are having tomatoes in your pasta and pizza sauces, in your salads, and piled high on your sandwiches and wraps. And don't forget your favorite Heinz and Kraft ketchup to squeeze on your hamburgers and dip your French fries in. 

In fact, during the pandemic, the Washington Post reported canned tomatoes were in high demand due to the increase in pizza deliveries. And guess who produces the largest number of tomatoes for canned tomatoes? If you said California, you are correct. The Golden State grows more than 90% of tomatoes used for canned tomatoes sold in the U.S. However, just like last year, tomatoes grown in this region of America are facing an uncertain future that could really affect the supply and demand of this fruit, while impacting your household budget.

California is facing a serious drought

According to Bloomberg, California is facing an incredible drought that is driving up prices and decreasing the number of tomatoes grown. Translation — prepare yourself because this means you might start to see fewer of these tomatoes in grocery stores. The head of the California Tomato Growers Association, Mike Montna told Bloomberg that the region's tomato farmers need precipitation, saying, "We are getting to a point where we don't have inventory left to keep fulfilling the market demand." In fact, Park Williams, a UCLA climate scientist, told the LA Times that 2022, along with 2002 and 2021 are the driest the state has experienced since the 1700s. Williams went on further to explain there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.

This is a big problem because, per Today, market research firm IRI has revealed that the prices for tomato sauce, ketchup, and salsa are already on the rise. Layer on top of this the fact that inflation is also at a 40-year high, and according to Fox, Americans are currently paying an extra $460 a month to get the same amount of groceries they were buying this same time last year. Now, tomatoes are ripe to become pricier in the coming months. That's a scary proposition for anyone who eats tomatoes and tomato-based products, and will likely lead to some tough decisions at the check-out stand.