Monday, April 28, 2014

Have You Heard About the Lime Shortage?

What do poor weather, bacteria and criminal cartels have in common? No, this doesn't have to do with Russia, I'm talking about the factors that are causing a national shortage in limes. 

Let's tackle the bacterial disease first. Up until 2000, Florida has been know to grow about 50% of the US lime supply. That year, following the effect of Hurricane Andrew, limes started developing bumps from a disease called Citrus Canker. The canker disease causes citrus fruits to fall from trees premature to their picking. To quarantine the diseased crop, the state was forced to destroy all trees within a 1900 foot span of the infection. This destruction of US lime production pushed our needs into the hands of Mexican lime growers, now producing approximately 95% of the US lime supply.

This year, Mexico has experienced threatened lime supply by a disease called Huanglongbing, commonly known as citrus greening disease, creating the same production woes that Florida saw in 2000.

So this is where it gets shady... Taking cues from every criminal operation ever, cartels in Mexico decided to exploit a bad situation for profit. Cartel members would raid lime crops and in some cases remove farmers all together in an attempt to control the supply, thus forcing the price of limes to new a new high. A standard case of limes would retail for approximately $20 at the beginning of the year; that price has now climbed to $100 or more, per case.

Depending on where you live, you may or may not notice the effect of the shortage. Ranging from higher prices to reduced menu items, bars and restaurants are handling the shortage in whatever way they can. Economists predict the situation will last about 4-5 months. Until this debacle ends, the thought of Gin and Tonics being made with a lemon wedge keeps us up at night...

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