The Tomatina festival in Bunol attracts about 20,000 people to its hour-long street bash, inspired by a food fight among children in 1945.
Participants were this year charged almost £9 each, although local residents do not have to pay.
Bunol, which has a population of 10,000, has civic debts of nearly £5 million. Among the top Tomatina participants are Australians, Japanese, Britons, Spaniards and Americans.
Six trucks took 130 tonnes of ripe tomatoes to the scene and portable showers were set up for revellers to clean up after the battle.
The move has led to concerns that festivals around crisis-hit Spain could be privatised.
Bunol Town Hall said in a statement: "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."
A total of 5000 free tickets have been allocated to local residents.