Shortage of limes causing sour effect at the register

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POSTED: Monday, May 5, 2014 - 4:09pm

UPDATED: Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 6:45am

If you're celebrating Cinco de Mayo with a margarita or possibly a shot of tequila, it might be missing an essential ingredient.

Lime prices across the country are at an extreme high, now costing about five times as much for a case compared to just one year ago.

"The price is just sky rocketing," said Bryan Black, Director of Communications for the Texas Department of Agriculture.  "A case of 200 limes will cost around $100, and last year at this time, that price was around $15."

The source of the problem can be found right across the border.

"This past winter, Mexico received some very heavy rain that destroyed much of the lime crop," explained Black.

Various reports also attribute the lime shortage to cartel influence--Mexican cartels are said to be inserting themselves in the lime industry, demanding a certain percentage of farmers' incomes and disrupting shipments across the border.

According to Dr. Diego Escobari, an Assistant Economics Professor at UTPA, these factors combined make up for a perfect storm in causing the price of limes to rise.

"What happens is that this is a shock, so nobody knew that this was gonna happen," Dr. Escobari said.  "So it's nearly impossible for someone in the U.S. to forecast in advance what was going to happen in the market for limes."

The U.S. puts all of their eggs--or limes--in Mexico's basket.  They supply about 95 percent of the limes imported into the U.S.

While the supply is low, the demand for limes is hard to meet since there's hardly a replacement for it, unless you count a lemon. 

And most people don't.

"On the demand side, [limes are] very difficult to substitute, so if you want your margarita perhaps you want it with lime, there's no other substitute for that," said Dr. Escobari.

The Texas Department of Agriculture says that they are hoping a summer crop of limes later this year will help alleviate the current shortage of limes.

 

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