The Mexican economy is still feeling the effects of a pair of hurricanes, John and Lane, which wrecked havoc on two of the country’s biggest tomato growing regions in September. The effects of weak tomato production are taking their tolls on the Mexican consumer price index (CPI), which has risen by 0.6 percent, a two-fold increase over the first two weeks of August. The impact of the tomato has surprised analysts who say that they have never seen such a strong influence from a single food item on inflation. Consumers in Mexico are also feeling the pangs of decreased tomato availability in their pocketbooks with a price increase of nearly 131 percent above July levels, though normalization is expected within the next few weeks.
Tomatoes may prove to be a major detriment on Mexico’s economy, which was progressing before the CPI increase. Analysts are now predicting an inflation rate of 4 percent for 2006, a drastic increase over last year’s 30-year low of 3.3 percent. Mexican consumers are known to devote a larger percentage of their incomes on food that citizens of wealthier countries, which helps to explain the obvious economic changes that are attributed to tomatoes.
Last year, 902,000 tons of Mexican tomatoes were imported in the United States, a figure that is estimated to be nearly half of the total Mexican production. While Mexican consumers are paying around $1 a pound, California consumers are paying nearly $4 a pound for some varieties.
Texas tomato growers also have a new disease to be concerned with. Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus has been identified as the cause of many tomato fields’ demise. The virus is vectored by whiteflies. The past growing season saw a heavy whitefly population in the Rio Grande Valley and the Winter Garden areas.