Fluctuating weather patterns over the past three months have caused interruptions in the supply of tomatoes, leading to dramatic increases in the price of the fruit, which is a staple in many homes.
Keitumetse Makhetha, a franchise industry analyst at Absa, this week reiterated that tomatoes were very sensitive to changes in weather.
In warmer conditions, the fruit ripens faster, which means that farmers have to harvest earlier. This causes an oversupply of the product.
However, a shortage can develop quickly if conditions are unfavourable, such as intense heat and heavy downpours, explains Makhetha.
These variations in supply can lead to price fluctuations, as has been the case over the past few months.
Makhetha said that, during November, there was a lot of rain and hail in the areas around Brits in North West, as well as in parts of Limpopo, where tomatoes are cultivated. This drastically affected available stock levels.
As a result, prices shot up by 37.5% in a week by the middle of November. The following week, the price subsided slightly, but in the week leading up to the end of November, the price increased by 46% week on week.
At the beginning of November, a kilogram of tomatoes was selling for R5.30 – by the end of the month, the price was R9.27/kg as a result of the weather conditions.
The last part of December saw heat waves and heavy rain, which made it difficult for producers to harvest.
Although the yield was not poor, rain interrupted supply. Shortages were experienced during some weeks, while others saw an oversupply, said Makhetha.
According to the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group’s household food index, consumers forked out R96.49 for a 6kg bag of tomatoes last month, compared with R84.99 in December and R72.49 in January last year.
The late rains in December meant that producers harvested later than expected, leading to an oversupply of the fruit last month. Tomato crops were again exposed to fluctuating weather patterns last month, said Makhetha.
In the week leading up to January 24, a shortage led to price increases of about 80% when compared with the previous week. Demand was also limited, which is typical for this time of year, because consumers’ disposable income is constrained by expenses such as school fees, explains Makhetha.
Absa’s agribusiness team expects support for producer prices for tomatoes over the next few months after a difficult January for consumers.
Traditionally, more tomatoes are sold in February and in March.
Absa’s seasonal index, based on data collected from January 2000 to December, also shows that price increases can be expected during this period, said Makhetha.
Supply is also expected to decline, which will lead to further price increases.
In the week leading up to February 7, the price of tomatoes was R10/kg.