Weather sends produce prices skyrocketing

March 12, 2010 9:19:57 PM PST
The harsh winter, the earthquake in Chile and lots of rain everywhere else are combining to take a dent out of your wallet. All those things affect the price of produce, which is skyrocketing. From tomatoes to onions and even grapes, you will be paying more at the grocery store. The recent cold weather is playing a big role in the costs. Tomato lovers may be surprised the next time they stop by the grocery store.

"Bought a tomato and they said $1.72. I said there has got to be a mistake," said tomato lover Troy Conger. "So I went and checked and they checked the price and it was true -- $1.72 for one tomato."

The tomato price hike can be blamed on old man winter. Cold weather in Florida killed off 70 percent of the spring tomato crop, forcing some stores to cut back on tomatoes in an effort to keep prices in check.

At Wendy's, customers have to specifically ask for tomatoes to get them. Other restaurants are doing the same or absorbing the cost.

Liz Moser with Magnolia Fruit & Produce said, "Most of the restaurants they will not take it off the menu but you'll see them asking the waiters and waitresses to ask the customer if they want the tomatoes. That way they are not throwing them out the back door."

Moser says the tomato shortage is only temporary.

"I don't think we will see this but for maybe another three or four weeks before Florida starts picking up production," she said.

And tomatoes are not the only produce that will cost you more.

K.J. Faour with Magnolia Produce said, "Bell peppers are going to be high for the next couple of weeks and red onions, that's going up as well as all the yellows."

Produce buyers say onions may give you the biggest sticker shock at the grocery store. Right now white onions are selling at $35 a bag right now. That's about twice what they normally cost.

"What they normally see this year is about a buck a pound on tomatoes, and about 85 cents per pound for onions," said producer buyer Darryl Johnson. "More than likely that is going to double, double at the retail level."

If you are looking for less expensive alternatives, try roma tomatoes, still relatively inexpensive. And yellow onions are cheaper than white right now. Again this will last a few months, and then prices should go back to typical levels.


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