Lime Prices Go Tart

Mexico’s most valuable fruit

A single box of limes (usually $14) is selling for $100 in California (Robert Turitz/Thinkstock)
Photo: Robert Turitz/Thinkstock Food citrus crate famers market farmers fruit juice juicy lime limes market organic wood

The price of a single lime has increased from 21 cents to 53 cents over the past year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Mexican production is down due to a number of factors, including heavy rains, an unexpected bacterium that's infecting trees, and growers demanding a higher price per pound. All of these issues have to contributed to a major lime shortage and a dramatic price shift in Mexico and the United States.

Nearly 98 percent of limes in the United States come from Mexico, which means problems south of the border are quickly felt to the north. Even with the price per lime up well over 100 percent from last year, U.S.-based importers are still buying to fulfill demand. "I've never seen limes at these prices," Raul Millan of New Jersey’s Vision Import Group, told NPR.

Organized crime in Mexico is starting to look for its slice of the lime market. Thieves are stealing truckloads of limes near the U.S. border, according to Millan. Many exporting services have hired security guards to protect their citrus gold.

In Southern California, the usual $14 box of limes is selling for $100, forcing retailers to decide if they want to buy them at all.

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