It Might Be Hard to Find Pasta Sauce, Salsa and Ketchup Because of a Tomato Shortage

The tomato shortage isn't entirely unexpected.

It’s been two years since the pandemic started, but we continue to see food shortages. After staples like wheat, eggs, meat and chickpeas, tomatoes are next in line—and along with that, we expect to see shortages of products like pasta sauce, salsa and of course, ketchup.

Why Is There a Tomato Shortage?

Nearly all of America’s processing tomatoes, aka the tomatoes we process and use to make other products, are grown in California. According to CNN, the region, along with others in the US, is reeling from incredibly high temperatures, with July 2022 ranking as the third hottest July on record. This has led to a drought even worse than last year’s, forcing farmers to let their crops go without water.

Fox Business reports that 40% of the region is currently classified as being under an extreme drought, with one farmer explaining that almost 15% of his processing tomato crop has been fallowed by the lack of rainfall. California Tomato Growers Association President Mike Montna also blamed inflation and supply chain issues for the shortage, an issue in many other industries that have been suffering shortages. “We haven’t had a good crop since 2018,” he says, “so we’ve been short in 2019, 2020, 2021, and we’re going to be short again in 2022.”

But this may not be simply because of recent trends. The Washington Post reported that the tomato shortage may have been a long time coming. From 2015 to 2019,  countries cut down on imports of American tomato products due to their higher prices. This created an oversupply of tomatoes and caused farmers to cut down on the number of tomatoes they planted. The limited crops combined with climate issues has led to the current shortage.

What Does This Mean for Shoppers?

Consumers can expect to see fewer canned products like stewed tomatoes and tomato paste on shelves, along with fewer products like pizza sauce, ketchup and salsa. These staples will also likely have higher prices in the months to come.

For many shoppers, the instinct is to stock up on a favorite pasta sauce, but make sure you don’t clean out the shelves. Be sure to leave enough for others.

And alternatives might be the way to go for a while—for example, switch to a cucumber salsa for a bit, or look into types of pasta sauce that don’t use tomatoes. Make use of other fall produce in the meantime, too!

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Amrita Thakkar
Amrita is an Assistant Digital Editor at Taste of Home. As a writer and amateur photographer, she often ends up applying these skills to her one great love: food. She can usually be found researching global cuisines, at the farmers market, doing yoga, or looking up new places to travel to.