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Why tomatoes are suddenly so expensive – and in scarce supply

| Economic factors

Good-quality tomatoes have been tough to find in recent weeks, as heavy rains at the start of the year in the Limpopo valley wreaked havoc on harvests.

This has resulted in supply shock, pushing tomato prices higher by 47% in a single week by mid-March.

Dr Johnny Van Der Merwe, managing director of agricultural information group Agrimark Trends (AMT), said in a video featured on that a record price of R16.82 per kilogram was reached on the market by mid-March, while high-quality tomatoes prices breached R30/kg.

This was due to very scarce supplies given the “high and constant rainfall” in the northern parts of South Africa, which caused damage to harvests.

In an interview with 702,  Clive Garrett, marketing manager of the tomato producer ZZ2, said that the tomato farms in Polokwane and Mooketsi were worst affected. Some production areas received more rain in January and February this year than they usually would in a year.

Tropical storm Eloise caused flooding in Limpopo towards the end of January. Too much water can ruin tomato harvests, and make the fruit prone to infestations.

Van Der Merwe expects that tomato supplies will only normalise in the second week of April, and that prices may remain strong despite some “consumer resistance” to forking out such high prices.

Many tomato lovers have already vented about the quality and shortage of tomatoes on social media:

Water damage also contributed to a short supply of carrots, with prices rocketing by more than 50% in a single week to R5.89 per kilogram by mid-March. Garrett says supplies of leafy vegetables, broccoli and cauliflower were also affected.


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