Last year’s severe drought and this year’s excess rain are keeping California’s tomato crop yield low and driving consumer prices higher.

Record rainfall in California this winter saturated tomato growing fields, making them too wet, delaying the short 12-week planting season, and potentially creating a shortage of tomato-based products, leading to increasing consumer prices for items like tomato sauces, soups, and ketchup, NBC News reported.

“I don’t think anybody is very optimistic about what our yields are going to be this year,” said Aaron Barcellos, a fourth-generation farmer. Barcellos owns A-Bar Ag Enterprises in the San Joaquin Valley, California’s main agricultural region, which is nicknamed “America’s salad bowl.”

“You can definitely walk into a store and not see your favorite sauce. You can see increased prices on consumers for ketchup and salsas and other tomato products,” he said.

The abundance of rain follows three years of severe drought that already made the tomato market volatile with lower-than-expected crop yields.

According to the report, California’s 200 tomato farmers account for growing around 95% of tomatoes used in canned products in the United States, with 10.5 million tons produced last year and a predicted yield of 12.4 million tons this year.

“I think most believe our yields will be off this year, but how much really depends on Mother Nature,” Mike Montna, the president of the California Tomato Growers Association told the news outlet, estimating that up to 1 million tons of tomatoes could be lost. “There’s definitely potential for a shortage.”

While rain is the culprit this year, drought caused last year’s production to come in at 2% below contracted production and 10% below the May 2021 forecast, reported in January 2022.

Weather is not the only factor impacting production.

CNN reported in October that inflation and rising interest rates were also increasing tomato growing costs and squeezing the farmers.

“We’re not getting the yields that we expected or that we got historically seven or eight years ago,” Montna told CNN at the time. “We’re in a flat to declining yield situation and a lot of it’s due to weather and how intensive it is to grow a tomato.”

In that report, he said that the low production in 2022 was the fourth consecutive year with lower-than-expected crop yields, causing consumer prices to rise 24% on products in that year.

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