The questionable supremacy of the imported tomato

Muyao Guan, Reporter

The quality of Florida tomato versus the Mexican tomato isn’t something that anyone will care much about unless they’re slicing it up to put on a sandwich or consuming it raw, crunching on nonexistent crunchiness until the juices go everywhere. But it becomes somewhat of an annoyance when one’s knife slices through the bright red tomato, only to find unripened green inside.


It’s not cheap to pay farm workers in Florida thanks to a combination of factors such as minimum wage and government regulations, but it is cheaper in Mexico! All one needs to do is hop on a conveniently placed boat and set sail across the Gulf of Mexico and land on Mexico’s east coast…where they realize that the most tomato-producing states in Mexico include Sinaloa and San Luis Potosi, which are located in Mexico’s west coast and central region respectively.


Unfortunately, the west coast and central Mexico are not the east coast. Fortunately, because of a lack of government regulations and other factors that make labor expensive (comparatively) in Florida, labor is cheap in Mexico. Thanks to this cheap labor and a plethora of government subsidies that Florida farmers lack, tomato manufacturers and farmers can afford to pay workers to harvest vine-ripened tomatoes.


Vine-ripened tomatoes are — as the name suggests — picked ripe and off the vine. They’re sweet, in demand, and they’re soft. Ergo, they require much more effort to harvest, lest a worker accidentally squeezes too hard and they get new clothing decorations in the form of tomato stains, or the tomatoes crush each other in transit, or a number of infinite other factors.


Florida-harvested tomatoes are, by contrast, picked green and unripe to save on labor costs. They’re treated with ethylene gas in special facilities to give them their signature bright red color. However, this renders them hard as rocks to eat and a hazard to anyone’s teeth and taste buds. 


Mexican-imported tomatoes are more in-demand, accounting for 66% of the American market share of tomatoes in 2020. Comparatively, Florida — an actual American state — lags behind at a measly 28 percent market share. Vine-ripened tomatoes will continue to be the perpetual love of salad lovers and anyone who likes a decent sandwich, and Mexico will continue to profit from where Florida lags behind.