Tomatoes lovers take a hit

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - It's been a frigid winter in Florida.

And now tomato lovers here are catching a chill every time they pick up a piece of their favorite fruit.

Tomatoes are five times more expensive than they were last year, because farmers lost about 70% of their crops during a severe cold snap in January.

And it's putting a financial strain on families and businesses that suffered through a tough winter themselves.

"You know, you want to try and keep your prices the same, and we hope that the price will go down pretty quick," says the produce purchaser at local soul food favorite, Dish restaurant.

But, unfortunately, it doesn't look like that's going to happen. For the first few months of spring, the Carolinas rely heavily on Florida for tomatoes, and experts say shipments from there will be very expensive for the foreseeable future.

"They have gone up dramatically," Melissa from Dish says. "They were $29 case. Now I'm seeing as high as $49 a case.

"The price of tomatoes is absolutely out of sight," says Lindsey Swanson, who works for Sysco food services. She says she's trying to help restaurants shoulder the cost. "They just need to have a great relationship with their sales rep."

But who's going to help you at the grocery store?

Not too many people are willing to give them up.

And over at the Healthy Home Market produce supervisor Adam Peltz sympathizes."We're going to keep our tomato prices steady," he says.

Not every store, however, is going to be able to do the same.

Peltz says the good news is, this summer, we'll be able to grow our own, because our own cold weather hasn't effected the tomato crops here. "There's been no effect on the tomato crop in North or South Carolina," he says.