Tomato Crop Suffers In California
A Tomato Harvest As Supply Is Squeezed By Drought Bruce Rominger in his tomato field in Winters, California, US, on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. Drought and water shortages are hurting processing tomato production in a region responsible for a quarter of the worlds output, with the squeeze set to exacerbate already elevated prices for tomato-based goods. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images Bloomberg / Contributor
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg /Contributor via Getty Images

The California tomato crop is hurting after a devastating drought and economic policies continue to plague California farmers.

The processing tomato production is expected to be 9.525 million metric tonnes, or 10.5 million tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The number is 2% lower than last year’s number and 10% under the number forecasted in May. The anticipated production amount also continued to go down as the season went on, and crops that were planted early were harmed by frost.

The global production estimate is almost 3 million tons less than projections from March, according to Tomato News reporting of the World Processing Tomato Council’s crop data as of the end of September. The outlet noted, however, that the final number is expected to be even less because California’s tomato output will likely be even lower.

Low water and intense summer heat have made a difficult environment for farmers, creating issues for them to meet the need for the crop. The Processing Tomato Advisory Board’s shipment numbers reportedly revealed a 5% drop through August 27, 2022 when contrasted with the end of August last year.

The low tomato yield could impact what customers see on grocery shelves and in restaurants, as well as the cost of such items.

“Ninety-five percent of the processed tomato products consumed in the United States come right here from California’s Central Valley,” Mike Montna, president and CEO of the California Tomato Growers Association, told CNN. “Mainly the tomatoes from the growers that I represent … go to your ketchups, pizza sauces, your retail sauces that you see at the supermarket.”

“We’re going to end up ultimately somewhere around 10.5, 10.4 million tons,” Montna noted, estimating that amount will be around 14% less than annual numbers forecasted early on. “We’re not getting the yields that we expected or that we got historically seven or eight years ago. We’re in a flat to declining yield situation and a lot of it’s due to weather and how intensive it is to grow a tomato.”

Montna said this is the least amount of tomatoes the industry has ever garnered, after there was a lot of need for tomato items during the pandemic. Last April, there was a shortage of ketchup as restaurants had tried to secure packets of the condiment during COVID.

Aaron Barcellos, a farmer, told CNN that his family reduced the amount of land used to grow tomatoes this season.

“It’s just like owning a second home and trying to rent it out,” Barcellos said of his empty acres. “If you don’t have a tenant in there, you still have all your fixed costs … but you have no income coming from it.”

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