Tomato Shortage Stems From High-Prices And Availability

Tomatoes no longer available in campus dinning halls due to high prices.

When students stop inside dining halls, they may notice a sign informing them the price of tomatoes has skyrocketed.

There has been a shortage of tomatoes in regions of Florida and Mexico, the regions Texas Tech acquires its tomatoes from, which has inconvenienced many students on campus.

Tommy Wilkins, director of produce procurement at United Supermarkets, said tomatoes are often affected by supply and demand and the cost of goods.

“They base the cost of that hamburger being so much on the tomato and if the market gets up to $30 that may not be what they want to pay so they just say it’s out,” he said. “There has been some weather issues this year that has certainly — lettuce has got sky-high a couple of times this year with some freezing. It does happen.”

Wilkins said United Supermarkets has not experienced a shortage in tomatoes and he thinks the reason Texas Tech may be experiencing issues is from attempting to play the market.

“We have not been out of tomatoes at United in any time in the past year, that I can recall,” he said. “But I think that sometimes they have cost of goods that they’ve got to try to control their costs and if the market gets up too high to where they can’t make any money based on paying for it, that’s what happens.

“We try to contract where we don’t have to worry about that. We go to growers and we go and commit x number of cases over a certain period of time and agree to a price and then we don’t play the market. But a lot of times that these guys try to buy cheap all the time, when it goes up, they get bit and then they say they’re out of them.”

Alan Cushman, manager for business development at Tech’s Hospitality Services, denied engaging in what Wilkins described.

“We have a contract with US. Foods, so we’re not actually the ones that are buying (tomatoes),” he said. “And part of our agreement with (US. Foods) is that we don’t want to serve a lesser quality product to our students so we don’t want them to play the market.

“Being a food service provider here on campus, we’re always at the mercy of the food market and what’s going on in different areas of that,” he said. “The current shortage of tomatoes is really with several different factors, the big one is the freeze that happened in the growing areas where our food distributor gets the tomatoes.”

Cushman also said that crop quality is driving up the cost of tomatoes and because US. Foods, Tech’s main food distributor, is committed to providing quality food items, there has been a price increase for the quality of tomatoes Tech is accustomed to receiving.

“Our distributor is US. Foods, and they’re not going to bring in a lesser quality tomato,” he said. “So we’re still purchasing the same quality but the price is going up, so that affects the shortage and stuff.”

According to a news release from US. Foods, big sized fruit is still a tight commodity with yields limited in both Mexico and Florida.

Cushman assures students that tomatoes are still being offered throughout campus, the only difference is now students must request them.

“We want to make sure that what we have is high quality, it’s still the same quality that we always serve, and when we are putting them out there, students are wanting them.”

About Michael Dupont
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