The world would be an abysmal place without Italian favorites like pizza and pasta. And in an era of rising temperatures, it’s a reality many may soon have to face.
Hot, dry climate conditions in the California tomato region are limiting the production of this critical fruit, which is vital for ingredients like tomato and pizza sauce. The Hill reported that according to data from National Geographic, tomato production was 10% less than it had been in prior years, which has canners scrambling.
Why is it important?
The state of California is responsible for up to 90% of the country’s canning tomatoes — which places an imminent threat on the sauce supply chain. The drop in production also means bad news for the agricultural economy in the state since tomatoes are the second-largest exported crop.
Besides warming winters and shifting growing conditions, Earth’s rising temperature has also ushered in new pests and diseases that are killing tomatoes in the state.
“Usually we’re dealing with one problem at a time,” commented Mike Montna, president of the California Tomato Growers Association. But now, “it feels like we’re all dealing with a lot all at once.”
Consumers around the country are expected to see the complications of this supply chain disruption, which could amount to more expensive tomato sauce. As a result, restaurant customers should also expect to see the prices for dishes with these ingredients rise.
“Tomatoes are like gas. When they get more expensive, people just suffer more, pay more—they don’t stop using it,” said Rob DiNapoli, a co-owner of Bianco DiNapoli, one of the biggest pizza sauce brands in the country.
Tomatoes aren’t the only Italian ingredient that is suffering as a result of warming temperatures. Olive oil is also at risk of unprecedented price surges as the primary growing regions, including Spain, see record heat.
It’s clear that some recipes won’t look the same as the result of harsh growing conditions — and consumers can expect to feel the brunt of the damage.
What should consumers do?
Consumers can get ahead of the curve by growing their own tomatoes at home. Gardeners can grow tomato plants easily by pinching off the suckers from the parent plant and propagating it in water.
For sweeter tomatoes, one TikTok gardener recommended planting tomatoes in water and using molasses for a sweeter, juicier bite. Many think it makes for a better sauce without the added sugar.
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