What Should Tomatoes Cost?


In keeping with my resolution to cook and eat in season, I have been trying to limit my tomato purchases. Still, I find myself gazing longingly at the piles of tomatoes at the grocery store. The price sticker shows the same price as it did over the summer. This puzzles me: should they not cost more as they are not in season? What determines the price of tomatoes anyway? It would include the cost of resources: seeds, water, fertilizers, labor, to start with. If any of these sees a rise in prices, tomatoes will cost more as well. So far land and water have not been an issue in the Unites States but with rising population and climate change these resources are the source of tension in many parts of the world. Farmland grabbing is now  a major phenomenon on several continents.

Cheap labor has also helped to keep food prices low but as countries like Mexico improve the standards of living, the flow of migrant labor will slow down. Will there be enough people to meet the demand for farm labor in America? Farm work is hard and the wages are very low. One way to resolve this would be to ensure a fair wage for farm workers, this might induce some current unemployed workers to move into this sector. This would make the food system better by ensuring that it is just and that we are not in the position of watching fruit rot on trees as there is no labor to harvest them while children go to bed hungry.

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