As reported by The Guardian, the price of tomatoes has increased as much as fourfold in the past year, from £5 a case to £20 a case, according to the Federazione Italian Cuochi UK (FIC UK), a chefs’ association.
The price of canned tomatoes has also doubled, it said, from £15 a case to £30. Meanwhile, the cost of iceberg lettuce has soared from around £7 a box to £22.
It comes as the UK finds itself in the grip of a fruit and vegetable shortage that has seen tomatoes, in particular, become harder to come by in supermarkets and shops.
Other ingredients that are in short supply include cucumbers, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower.
The Government has blamed bad weather in southern Europe and north Africa for the shortages. However, Brexit rules and lower supplies from UK and Dutch producers hit by the jump in energy bills to heat glasshouses are also widely considered to be a factor.
Enzo Oliveri, FIC UK’s president, has described it as a 'very difficult' time for Italian restaurants.
“I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel,” he told The Guardian.
“But because there’s everywhere a shortage, there’s no tomatoes coming from any place.”
Some restaurants, Oliveri said, are adapting by moving their menus away from the ingredient, and instead offering 'white' tomato-less pizzas and pasta dishes. Chefs are using cheeses such as ricotta, or vegetables including courgettes or aubergines as a base and to thicken sauces.
“White pizza, white sauces for pasta or less tomato. We’re making it a trend because prices are going up and because of shortages.”
Carmelo Carnevale, president of the Italian Culinary Consortium, added that tomato prices have gone up three times in the past two weeks alone. He told The Guardian that while restaurants are still getting tomatoes, they are not getting them in their usual quantities.
“It’s very stressful for us, especially that we also have ours imported from Italy twice a week. We’re lucky to get it,” he said.
“Tomatoes are in a lot of our dishes. We as a company promote ‘made in Italy’ and we have to keep our identity without compromising the quality. We can’t increase our prices either, so we’re not making any profit.”
Oliveri has called for the Government to cap tomato prices.
“When the prices go up we’re in trouble,” he warned. “We cannot calculate the margins any more.”