Picture me at the grocery store. Gleefully skipping across the produce section like a kid at the playground, ticking off everyone else who might be wondering why, on Earth, I’m skipping in a grocery store.
What can I say? Produce makes me happy.
Anyway, off I go. Blissfully filling my basket.
I’m not even gon’ traumatize you with how much the beefy tomatoes cost. Let’s just say… I still have nightmares.
Why are the grocery stores expecting me to pay an arm, a leg and a first born for tomatoes?
Freezing weather across the South and in Mexico recently damaged tomato, cucumber, and bell pepper crops, leading to shortages and price increases.
That has left some restaurants scrambling to revamp their sandwiches and salads, and smaller quantities of some produce at many grocery stores.
“It’s sort of like the perfect storm – Florida, Texas, and Mexico all get hit with unseasonably cold weather, which decreased the yields of tomatoes and cucumbers,” said Gary Karp (no relation), executive vice president for Technomic, a food-industry market-research firm. “It’s going to take about 60 days or so before new tomatoes and other replacement products can come to market.”
For tomatoes, in particular, it’s unusual to have freezes in both Florida and Mexico in the same season, said Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.
“Never in my lifetime have I seen both areas affected by freezes at the same time,” he said.
The Florida freeze in early December will result in about half the yield of a normal year, and damage from the western Mexico freeze early this month is still being assessed, Brown said.
Prices for tomatoes have recently doubled from about $15 for 25 pounds of Florida tomatoes, Brown said. The good news is the tomato shortage likely will ebb in late March, when Florida gets its next crop, he said.
Meanwhile, the National Restaurant Association said the shortage is affecting eateries across the country.
“A temporary shortage of any food item typically doesn’t spell disaster for restaurants, and there’s not much to be done about Mother Nature’s whims,” spokeswoman Annika Stensson said.
But the lack of the red fruit might mean the BLT – bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich – will temporarily become a BL at some sandwich shops.
“Operators are going to have to be very creative,” Karp said. “If they can get them, they’ll probably slice them thinner.”
Wendy’s restaurants late last week stopped including sliced tomatoes on hamburgers and chicken sandwiches except by request, spokeswoman Kitty Munger said.
Wendy’s salads, which use grape tomatoes, are not affected, Munger said.
Subway has seen a shortage of green bell peppers, as well as tomatoes. The sandwich chain is hoping to make up for the deficiency by including “additional varieties, shapes, and sizes, and will also receive produce from additional growing regions,” spokesman Les Winograd said.
Supermarket chain Supervalu, which owns Jewel-Osco stores in the Chicago market, said it was hearing daunting stories from growers.
“Some growers are reporting full crop losses,” spokeswoman Karen May said.
The result will be produce shortages in stores for the next six to eight weeks. Products affected include tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, green beans, eggplant, peppers, and zucchini, she said.
“We will continue to negotiate with growers to receive the best price possible on produce,” she said. [source]
So…. needless to say, those tomatoes stayed as far away from my basket as possible… as I wished I had a “connect” on a veggie dealer or somethin’. I just… I’m a little sad. My pizza plans… were foiled. That’s what I get for trying to buy out of season, anyway.
Just don’t be surprised when I write about sustainability. That’s all I’m sayin’.
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