Tomatoes Put Red in Our Budgets

By  | 

It's a red alert for all of us tomato lovers out there. Tomato prices have tripled in the past month, and that's thanks in part to the recent hurricanes in Florida. See how local restaurants and consumers are dealing with the skyrocketing prices.

If you've dined at Lino's in Rockford lately, you might notice something different about their famous salad. For the past two weeks, it has one less ingredient.

"We've just added more sausage and other ingredients and got rid of the tomato," says owner, Joseph Battista.

Prices on fresh tomatoes jumped nearly 200 percent in October.

Why? Because after the Florida hurricanes and flooding in California, farmers had to replant crops expected be sold in November and December, but it's not just restaurants on red alert, travel to your local grocery store and you'll see it too.

"Before they were 89 cents a pound and now that price has tripled," says Jesusita Legarda, a cashier at the Rockford Fruit and Meat Market.

On the bright side is prices on canned and pureed tomatoes used in sauces haven't been affected. Those products are packaged earlier in the year, so Legarda has seen less of the fresh and more of the canned at her register lately.

"Because they want to save their money, that's why they're buying them," explains Legarda.

Experts expect the shortage to last about a month, ending perhaps just in time to include some red in our Thanksgiving feast. Other area restaurants have also scaled back on tomatoes in salads and on salad bars.

Some good news is Lino's will have tomatoes back in their salads this week thanks to a deal they struck with a local distributor.