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Tomato Shortage 2022: Could Ketchup and Salsa Soon Be Hard to Find?

Tomatoes could be scarce over the next few months, driving up the prices of many staple kitchen foods.

tomato soup with herbs on top
Tomato soup could be affected by the tomato shortage.
Chowhound

If you're looking to make tomato soup, pasta sauce or a BLT soon, heads up: Tomatoes could grow scarce this year, as California is experiencing its worst drought since the year 800. And it's not just tomatoes that are affected. Other popular grocery store items like salsa and ketchup, which use tomatoes as a primary ingredient, could soon see additional price hikes -- they've already gone up this year due to inflation.

Tomatoes are just one of many shortages the US is seeing in grocery stores this year. Products like tampons, Sriracha sauce and baby formula have also been hard to spot on the shelves. We'll explain what's happening with the tomato shortage and which products are affected.

What's causing the tomato shortage?

California, the leading tomato producer state in the US, is responsible for more than 90% of the tomatoes grown domestically. But the state's ongoing drought is responsible for a lower supply of tomatoes this year. Without rainwater, farmers have been forced to let their tomato crops go thirsty. Roughly 37% of farmers are killing existing crops due to dry conditions, CNN reported. Instead, many farmers are focusing on hardier crops that generally require less water.

But the shortage of tomatoes has been a long time coming, according to the Washington Post. An oversupply of tomatoes was prompted by fewer countries importing American tomatoes between 2015 and 2019 due to US canned tomato products being more expensive. Therefore, farmers cut back on growing tomatoes, leaving a short supply at the start of the pandemic. 

It's unclear at this time how long a tomato shortage could last as farmers adjust to the drought and focus on other crops.

scattered tomatoes on a table

The drought is causing a shortage of tomatoes.

James Martin/CNET

Other products that could be affected by the shortage

Tomatoes are used to make a variety of staple food items. Here are some products that could be affected due to their tomato-based ingredients.

  • Ketchup
  • Pizza sauce
  • Frozen pizza
  • Marinara sauce
  • Salsa
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Tomato sauce, paste and juice

You'll likely see a price increase on these products

If you haven't seen price increases yet on some of the food items listed above, you probably will soon. The price of tomato sauce is up 17% from a year ago, and ketchup is 23% higher, Bloomberg reported. Even certain tomato pastes have risen 80% in price since last year.

The cost of processing tomatoes was 7% higher across the globe in April, compared to previous years.

For more, here's a list of current shortages in grocery stores.