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Tomato shortage due drought could hike up prices of the crop

SAN BENITO Calif. (KION) The drought is impacting farmers across the west, especially tomato growers in California. Though the crop may not be a widely grown here on the Central Coast, in the Central Valley tomatoes are a big deal.

As we all know, tomatoes can be found in your favorite sauces, salads, and even drinks. And though tomato acreage on the Central Coast has been down historically, because the grounds are more valuable for vegetable crops, that could change next year due to the lack of water in the Central Valley.

“California is number one in the country,  United States obviously, and usually number one in the world somewhere between 11 and 13 million ton of tomatoes a year growing for processing,”said Joe Tonascia, Owner of Tonascia Farms and sit in Director for the San Benito County Water District.  

So California’s shortage, could reflect processing around the world. The lack of water is causing a lag in the production of tomatoes. Inventory is so low it could lead to higher costs in the crop, which means some of your favorite foods might get a little more pricey. That could lead to some interesting competition among farmers.  

“In the framing this next year, there will be pressure from the valley guys coming over here looking for crops, tomatoes will be one of them,” said Tonascia.

And the drought is not just impacting the Central Valley. Happy Boy Farms, a local grower and seller of tomatoes out of Watsonville, shared via email that they too are feeling the impacts.

“ We are experiencing both a delay and shortage of our tomatoes. The drought and weather are to blame for both. The intermittent colder weather caused our tomatoes to ripen later in the year. The shortage is impacting our sales. People know our tomatoes and not having them ready by the start of summer was a letdown for many of our customers,” Natalie, Happy Boy Farms.

Tonascia also mentioned that he use to grow about three hundred acres a year of cannery tomatoes but he got out of the business, his big reason, price. This year especially, expenses are up from a mix of events, COVID, drought, fuel prices, and shortage of labor. And that typically it’s a little more affordable to grow in the Central Valley. Water tends to be cheaper, labor and growing costs tend to be down, and tomatoes unlike other crops found here on the Central Coast, can handle the heat further inland.

“ Its a very changing industry right now and it changes, day by day, week by week, month by month,” said Joe Tonascia

The shortage impacts prices differently for different farms. Even with a good winter, water could be in short supply come next year.

Central Coast / Local News / Top Stories / Video
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Erika Bratten

Erika Bratten is a weather forecaster for KION News Channel 5/46.


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