Budget-hit Spanish town charges for tomato-throwing fest

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Media captionWhat do you get for your money at the Tomatina festival?

The debt-hit Spanish town of Bunol - world-renowned for its tomato-throwing Tomatina festival - is to charge entry for the first time.

Each year thousands of tourists pack the town to take part in the hour-long tomato fight that leaves the streets running in red juice.

But the event will now be ticketed over concerns about the cost of the event and ballooning attendance.

Tourists will now have to pay a minimum of 10 euros ($13; £9) to take part.

That has led to fears that festivals around crisis-hit Spain could be "privatised".

Among the top Tomatina ticket purchasers are Australians, Japanese, Britons, Spaniards and Americans.

Some 5,000 free tickets have been allocated for local residents, but the town is expecting an influx of ticketless people.

Officials say they will take a "zero tolerance" approach and are beefing up security measures.

"This is the first year we are charging for access to this popular festival due to the need to limit the crowd for safety reasons," Bunol town hall said in a statement, according to AFP news agency.

"We have had a problem for the past eight or 10 years: the Tomatina is not controlled, we don't know how many people are going to come," Bunol Mayor Joaquin Masmano Palmer reportedly told Spanish media.

But the cost of organising the food fight is also a burden for the town, said to be indebted to the tune of several million euros.