Florida Tomato Shortage Impacting Restaurants Nationwide

Categories: Food News
Walking into a Deerfield Beach Tex-Mex restaurant last week, I noticed a handwritten sign on the door. It read, "Due to tomato shortage, customers are limited to one bowl of salsa per table."

Tex-Mex without salsa? That's like pizza without cheese. Or sauce.

After one of the coldest winters in the past 30 years, more than 70 percent of Florida's tomato crop has been destroyed. It's lead to tomato prices shooting through the roof -- from around $6.45 per 25-pound box this time last year to nearly $30 this year, according to the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.

Because of the costs, restaurants where fresh tomatoes are in high demand have started scaling back. Fast-food chain Wendy's has started leaving tomatoes off its sandwiches unless customers specifically ask for them. Other restaurants are offering different tomato varieties, such as plum tomatoes, instead.

The impact isn't restricted to Florida either. Our Sunshine State is the only place in the U.S. where tomatoes are grown during winter, a representative of the Growers Exchange said. That means the shortage is affecting restaurants nationwide. Suppliers are now turning to tomatoes grown in Mexico to fill the void.

It's no secret that wintertime tomatoes don't taste the best. But our craving for the fruit lasts year 'round. The good news is the long-term ramifications seem slim. New crops are expected to begin being harvested as early as mid-April.

As for that Tex-Mex joint? When our first bowl of salsa was drained, a busboy scooped it up, went back to the kitchen, and returned moments later with a fresh helping. After that generosity, I felt compelled to finish it all.

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