Surging Lime Prices Put the Squeeze on Mexican Restaurants

Mexican restaurants in U.S. squeezed by surging lime prices
Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images
By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO -- Mexican restaurants in the United States are being squeezed by a sudden jump in the price of limes, an essential ingredient, which has led managers in places like San Antonio that are a hotbed for the cuisine to alter recipes.

"Mexico received some heavy rains that destroyed a large amount of the lime crop, so with limited supplies we are seeing lime prices skyrocket," Bryan Black, director of communications for the Texas Department of Agriculture, said on Thursday.

Texas like most U.S. states receives most of their limes form Mexico.

John Berry, who runs La Fonda, a prominent Mexican restaurant in San Antonio, said Thursday the price he pays for a case of limes has jumped to nearly $100 from $14 last year.

"Real simple," Berry said. "We don't buy them. We substitute lemons."

Limes are used in guacamole and to garnish beers.

Serving a margarita without a lime garnish is burning at the heart of Louis Barrios, who runs the family-owned Mexican restaurant chain "Los Barrios."
But he's doing without.

"Ninety nine percent of the time, people don't squeeze it into the margarita anyway," Barrios says.

A combination of factors has prompted the spike in lime prices. Most limes consumed in the United States come from the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Colima, and Guerrero, which have been hit by an unusual combination of cold weather and flooding, wholesalers said.

Shipments have also been disrupted by violence attributed to drug gangs, they said.

The high prices aren't expected to end any time soon, according to wholesalers.


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26 Comments

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crankybytch

I am still able to buy a bag of 8-12 limes at the grocery store for under $4 here in Indiana. Maybe the restaurants should stop thinking wholesale and shop locally for the time being. They could still cut costs and serve their food the traditional way customers are accustomed to.

March 29 2014 at 10:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to crankybytch's comment
georgii1

Expect the price increase to spread shortly. Lemon and lime prices going up fast all over the place. I looked at limes yesterday and they were .50 each for the little ones. They going up so fast I suspect it won't be long before they are a dollar each.

March 30 2014 at 6:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Biswajitdas Das

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March 29 2014 at 10:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lbrewer14lorraine

I don't know if the comment about only being able to grow limes in Florida was referring to growing them commercially, but, I grew them successfully in So. California.

March 28 2014 at 11:54 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
Actionwriter

same-o same-0 B o r i n g zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

March 28 2014 at 11:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bdgrizcp

Here's something about citrus I didn't know--there is now a 'sweet' lemon. I haven't tried them, just saw them at a local Target.

March 28 2014 at 10:35 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bdgrizcp

Another restaurant fad driving up the price of food. Used to be wings were cheap until every bar started serving them, and it's driven the price up to near $3 a pound for chicken wings. Avocados are more expensive than they used to be. Now limes--not so much where I live but the writing's on the wall. OH--ribs, too.

March 28 2014 at 10:33 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bdgrizcp

The only place in the US you can grow limes is south Miami Dade or Monroe Counties (the Keys). Roughly 350 acres--around a half square mile--is planted with lime trees in the US. So we have to make up the difference from someplace else. So far in South FL there hasn't been a shortage or a major price increase. As a PS I should add that citrus has quite a long shelf life for fresh fruit. Limes in particular can be strored for many weeks, as evidenced by the fact that they were carried aboard ships in the age of sail to ward off scurvy--they didn't call them limeys for nothing.

March 28 2014 at 10:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Candace Williams

Well, I overheard at a local grocery store about the price increase, but luckily this is not essential except when I drink a Corona so who cares. Most of the crop that is priced too high will end up rottening on the shelves. This is something we CAN do without.

March 28 2014 at 9:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BRUCE

They will end up doing the same thing the tabacco industry is doing...pricing themselves right out of business.

March 28 2014 at 1:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to BRUCE's comment
welcome eric

I wouldn't hold my breath on that one, LOTS of Asians like to smoke.

March 28 2014 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ejljr

It's not the tobacco industry that is pricing themselves out of buisness. It's government doing it will all the taxes. Local, state and federal government.

March 29 2014 at 4:13 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Judith

Freeze the juice, with our without pulp as you prefer, and freeze the zest. Problem solved.

March 28 2014 at 1:23 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply