Why limes in Mexico have suddenly tripled in price

Seeing green.
Seeing green.
Image: Reuters/Mariana Bazo
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What’s guacamole without the lime? Fresh lime is an indispensable part of Mexican cuisine, but it’s getting harder to stomach its price.

Lime prices have jumped from under 10 pesos ($0.75) per kilo (2.2 pounds) last month to nearly 30 pesos per kilo in Mexico (link in Spanish), rising by as much as 200% in some parts of the country (link in Spanish). As recently as 2012, the going price was closer to 8 pesos per kilo (link in Spanish).

Climate change and cartel warfare are mainly to blame for the lime price hike.

The polar weather gripping North America has crept into much of Mexico and been deleterious to the country’s lime growers. At least three of the country’s biggest lime-producing states, Colima, Guerrero and Oaxaca, have already suffered from shrinking harvests (link in Spanish) related to the poor weather. “If prices rise, my information suggests it has to do with the climate,” Mexico’s economics secretary Ildefonso Guajardo said last week. And the high prices could continue through the winter.

Meanwhile, escalating violence in Michoacán, one of the country’s most important citrus-growing regions, has made harvesting and transporting limes harder. In some cases, gangs have demanded makeshift taxes from growers and distributors in the region, which drives up production costs that are passed on to consumers. In others, distributors have refused to transport limes to and from the area.

Lime prices in Mexico City suffered a similar fate last year, jumping from 8 pesos per kilo to 40 pesos per kilo at one point. Lime prices also suffered dearly when cargo theft jumped 50% from 2009 to 2010, which jacked up insurance prices for trucking companies transporting, among other things, limes. Some markets in Mexico City were forced to sell limes for over 58 pesos per kilo, or more than quadruple the ordinary rate.