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Prepare to pay more at the grocery store as extreme weather hits one of America’s most-used crops

July 28, 2021, 7:00 PM UTC

California’s extreme drought could end up hitting your wallet in a number of ways.

The state’s tomato crop, which supplies 90% of the canned tomatoes used in America is at risk—and that could impact everything from ketchup and marinara sauce to salsa and Bloody Marys, along with anything you make at home that uses tomato sauce, paste, or stewed and crushed tomatoes.

That will also impact prices at restaurants around the country, which rely on the canned products.

The weather conditions are causing some farmers to plant much smaller crops this year, as water restrictions impact the area they can maintain. Tomatoes are already not the highest-paying harvest for many farmers, who are choosing instead to focus on crops that yield higher profits.

Planting fewer crops in the face of hurdles isn’t new. As international orders have fallen, many farmers have shifted their focus to crops other than tomatoes. Last year’s trade war also increased can prices, which disincentivized growing more tomatoes.  

Things could be even worse next year. The Washington Post reports that while the reservoir levels were acceptable at the start of this growing season, they will likely be empty next year. And California’s Water Resources Control Board has removed another water source, forbidding farmers from using the rivers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river watersheds. That could lead many farmers to not plant tomatoes at all next year.

But it’s not just tomatoes at risk. Winemakers in California’s Russian River Valley say they’ve been cut off from many water sources, too. They’re hoping to harvest this year’s crop before it turns to raisins. The threat of wildfires isn’t helping the situation.

That could result in higher prices for oenophiles, too.

And like tomatoes, next year’s grape crop is at risk as well, since buds for the 2022 season are being set now, and will be less productive if they face undue stress from drought conditions.

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