Tomato shortage leads to higher prices

By Juan Carlos Fanjul - bio | email

NORTH PALM BEACH, FL (WFLX) - For Judy Manus and her husband, the number one thing they look forward to when they go out for Mexican is "the salsa -- the free salsa," she exclaimed.

That hasn't changed at North Palm Beach eatery La Bamba where tomatoes are it's lifeline. Several cases are used on a daily basis for the salsa alone.

But manager Ivan Sanchez says what they pay for the red produce has changed, big time.

"We used to pay between $7 and $9 for a case of tomatoes. Now we are paying $28," said Sanchez.

The reason for the plum sticker shock, crop freezes in January and February that wiped out nearly 70 percent of Florida's tomato fields.

Red and Green Peppers used in Fajitas also cost nearly five times as much after the freezes.

Still, Sanchez says charging for chips and salsa wouldn't be the ripe idea. "We didn't cut any corners at La Bamba. So, it's going to be the same. We absorbed the increase in order to keep doing what we've been doing," he said.

As for Judy, she just keeps coming to the restaurant for the free stuff.

At home, she's buying "less tomatoes. It's just too expensive to buy them like we used to," she said.

Experts say the quality of the tomatoes has been affected, as well.