Florida tomato shortage blamed on Hurricane Irma

Prices spike in grocery; some restaurants take tomatoes off menu

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you’re a tomato lover, you've probably noticed you are shelling out a little more money to buy them. Some local restaurants have even stopped serving tomatoes, saying the price is too high.

"They have gone up in price," shopper Jessica Garcia said. "It is noticeable. I have children, so I buy a lot of groceries."

News4Jax found a bag with three tomatoes on sale for just over $5. Some restaurants say tomatoes are off the menu until the price drops.

The price of tomatoes has shot up if you talk to shoppers who pay attention to the price per pound.

A Mexican restaurant in Clay County says it has temporarily stopped serving tomatoes, as have a lot of other restaurants because the price has soared.

ThePacker.com, which tracks the agriculture industry, published an article saying delays in planting and early harvesting due to Hurricane Irma are partially to blame. Shipments of Florida tomatoes the first week  December were down more than 65 percent over the previous year.  Nationally, shipments were down 25 percent for the period.

The website reported the wholesale price of a 25-pound carton of Florida tomatoes shipped in late November was $25.95. In the same period in 2016, the price of a similar carton was between $9.95 and $13.95.

For some shoppers, the price is a turnoff. Others simply grab their tomatoes, saying they don’t mind paying an extra dollar or two -- or they just don't pay attention.

"No, I just buy them," one shopper said.

Prices could be potentially come down soon. ThePacker.com reported that tomato imports from Mexico will likely show up this month, and supply may catch up with demand.

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