Tomato farmers in California suffer from years of drought

Tomato farmers in California are being hurt by the state's water crisis as well as inflation. 

"We pick at the peak of freshness," said Aaron Barcellos of A-Bar Ag Enterprises. For 25 years, he has grown tomatoes in California's Central Valley.

Between the devastating lingering drought and the rising cost of growing tomatoes, farmers like Barcellos are feeling the squeeze as their margins are squeezed.

"We're just at the mercy of Mother Nature," he said. "We had a little over 500 acres. We fallowed over 2,000 acres of ground that normally go to tomatoes. This year, we just did not have the water to go ahead and grow." The grower's water costs triple and quadruple in times of drought.

Due to inflation, growers are also seeing costs of fuel and fertilizers go up, and those added costs are then reflected in consumer products.

"There aren't any farmers making any money on tomatoes in California this year, even with a record price," Barcellos said.

California's tomato growers are now at the end of their harvesting season. Harvest has been much slimmer compared to last year, resulting in prices going up. Consumers will feel it when they buy ketchup, sauces, soups, salsas, and other tomato products in the store.

The California Tomato Growers Association says its members produced about 14 percent fewer tomatoes this year than originally intended.

"What makes this different is this is about our fourth year in a row of having a shorter crop than what we wanted. Ultimately, it does come down to the water," Montna said.

Barcello, who grew up in the Central Valley, said the climate "has definitely changed. We are seeing hotter streaks during the summer, more extremes between cool and warm, and I don't know what an average year is anymore."

Barcellos said tomato crop yields across the state have steadily declined over the last decade.

Source: Arizona's Family


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