How U.S. Tomato Growers Feel About Now:

Sep 28, 2021

U.S. farmers are going (toma)toe to (toma)toe with imports from Mexico, and it’s not looking great.

The facts: Imports of tomatoes from Mexico are expected to double in the coming years, based on historical trends. If this happens, a new University of Florida study says American tomato growers could lose $252M annually — a 27% loss in current revenue.

Mexico dominates the U.S. tomato market, with three times more market share than the domestic industry. The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas pushed back on the study, saying the conclusions are “misleading and unrealistic.”

In the last two decades, domestic tomato growers’ market share has been escaping—much like how slippery, delicious tomato guts slide off the cutting board. Every. single. time.  

Zoom out: U.S. farmers grew 1.3B pounds of fresh tomatoes last year, which is less than a third of the harvest from 2000, thanks to competition from Mexico and other complications like rising wage rates.

Florida will be hit especially hard because it shares the same harvest season with Mexico.

Soundbite: “But all may not be lost, if the U.S. fruit and vegetable industry could revolutionize the production technology. Mechanization or automation will be a game-changer and is the future for this labor-intensive industry,” said Zhengfei Guan, a UF/IFAS Associate Professor and leader of the study.