Of all the years to decide to grow your own tomatoes, this could be one of the best. It’s not about growing conditions; it’s about the price. Consumers are being warned that the cost of tomatoes is about to skyrocket, translating into bigger bills at the supermarket.
That’s because the relationship between the United States and Mexican growers has soured after the U.S. Department of Commerce announced it’s withdrawing from a long-standing agreement between the two sides.
Officials in the U.S. are investigating allegations that Mexican tomatoes are being sold under fair market value, making it almost impossible for American growers to compete.
It’s a practice called dumping, something the Department of Commerce is continuously investigating. Chinese garlic producers, for example, have been under the microscope for undercutting the domestic industry, and those found guilty are slapped with high dumping taxes to even the playing field.
As a result of the agreement being canceled, Mexican tomato exports are now being taxed 17.5%. The Mexican Protected Horticulture Association warns that if the tariffs aren’t lifted, the U.S. will be hit with a massive tomato shortage by mid-June.
The association says smaller producers have had no choice but to lower their export volumes, and the bigger producers will likely follow suit.
According to a report by USA Today, Arizona State University estimates we will be paying 40% more for vine ripe tomatoes between now and December. In the colder months, expect prices to rise by 85%.
Last year, tomatoes bought in the U.S. cost about $2.17 per pound.
If you’re not growing your own tomatoes, consider buying the dietary staple locally to help offset costs.
Most of the domestic producers are in Florida, and they claim they have been struggling because of Mexico’s unfair advantage over the years.
Tomatoes are harvested by hand, a job that is much more affordable in a place like Mexico, for example, where the minimum wage is about $5.40 per day.
Naples Daily News says there were 250 tomato growers in Florida in 1990; today, only 25 of them are left.
And twenty years ago, 60% of the tomatoes consumed in the U.S. from November to May were grown in Florida; today, Mexico accounts for 70% of the supply.
This most recent trade war is just another feather in the caps of local food movements and victory gardens, both valid options if looking for ultimate freshness and affordability.