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Florida Freezes Hamper Tomato Production

Unusually cold temperatures in Florida this winter have lead to a 30% decrease of tomato production, leaving farmers and consumers at a loss.

rows of tomatoes at a market

Photo: pochacco20

Florida produces a majority of the tomatoes consumed in the U.S. at this time of year, so the shortage in tomato production is affecting many farmers, farmworkers, businesses and consumers.

This January, Florida has experienced abnormally cold temperatures that have resulted in a series of freezes. These cold temperatures have proven fatal for approximately 30% of the total tomato crop, according to Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, an agricultural cooperative of Florida tomato growers.

To help further quantify the loss – the January freezes have destroyed more than $400 million worth of crops. Most of these crops were tomatoes.

Impacts On Both Sides Of Production

Florida produces nearly all of the tomatoes consumed throughout the country at this time of year, so the aftermath of the tomato shortage is affecting many.

NPR’s Luis Hernandez spoke with several people who have already felt the impact of the decrease in tomato production in Florida, including farmers, migrant workers, business owners and consumers.

The farmers and migrant workers are the most immediately affected by the shortage of tomato production and have seen significant wage losses.

On January 29, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack declared a majority of Florida a primary natural disaster region due to the cold temperatures, which resulted in compensation for many of Florida’s growers. However, farmworkers, including migrant workers,  were not eligible for this compensation, according to the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.

Price Increases

Restaurants, markets and grocery stores who rely on tomatoes are also experiencing the loss. Prices for tomatoes, specifically roma and cherry tomatoes, have drastically increased. Some buyers have turned to Puerto Rico and Mexico to compensate for the shortage.

The decreased volume of tomato production is expected to affect tomato supply and prices nationwide until mid-April.

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Laura Bult

Laura Bult is a spring intern with Earth Eats and a senior at Indiana University majoring in International Studies, with minors in English Literature and Spanish.

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