Tomato Shortage Stretches Into East Texas - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

11/16/04-East Texas

Tomato Shortage Stretches Into East Texas

If you're a lover of tomatoes, this story could have you seeing red.  Hurricanes in Florida and torrential rains in Mexico have caused a major shortage in the tomato crop this fall.  In East Texas, that shortage is causing headaches for restaurants and consumers alike.

"All the hot sauce, pico de gallo, compuestas, just about everything we fix has a tomato or tomato base in it," said Gus Ramirez, an owner of the "El Charro Mexican Restaurant" in Tyler. The restaurant goes through over 100 pounds of tomatoes every day.  He said that hasn't changed, but what he pays for the red fruit has. "For what we pay for a case of tomatoes just a few weeks ago now it's doubled, tripled sometimes."

In September the average, wholesale price for box of tomatoes was $10.  A month later that price had gone up to $16.  Right now, distributors are paying nearly $35 a box for the red fruit.  The price of tomatoes has gone up so much over the past few months now, a box of Roma Tomatoes will cost as much as a barrel of oil.

At Jucy's Hamburgers on 5th Street in Tyler, they're paying that higher price. Manager Don Laster said 'it's just part of the package'.

"I just write my name at the bottom of (the checks), I don't look at the price," he said. "We go through this all the time it's just you just grin and bear it and hope it doesn't last long."

We checked around Tuesday and found the average price for tomatoes at the grocery store was $2.99 a pound, a dollar higher than a few months ago. Prices are expected to come back down before Christmas.

Chris Gibson, reporting

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