10 October 2006

What's with high tomato prices?

Photo by Steven H. Miller, taken in Tepatitlan de Morelos, Jalisco

A kilogram of tomatoes at my local Gigante supermarket in Guadalajara now sells for 40 pesos. I took a pass.

The price of the normally-cheap Mexican dietary staple jumped recently due to hurricane Lane, which last month battered Sinaloa, a major tomato-producing state. (Sinaloa adorns its license plates with a tomato and the Culiacan baseball team is called the Tomateros, or tomato growers).

And as an unexpected consequence of the high price, Mexico's inflation rate also soared, passing the four-percent plateau. Low inflation - it dipped below three percent for the first time ever during the winter - had been one of the Fox administrations biggest accomplishments, but that could now be jeopardized.

Tomatoes comprise a major part of Mexico's consumer price index. And according to a Los Angeles Times article, "[N]o dietary staple can gyrate a nation's consumer price index like Mexico's tomatoes."

The index's spike won't resolve itself until after several more harvests. In the meantime, expect to see fewer tomato-based dishes and fresh salsas on the nation's menus.

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