The price squeeze on limes has ended

06/16/2014 6:08 PM

06/16/2014 6:09 PM

Just in time for the Mayor of Margaritaville’s concert at the Coyote Drive-In, the lime crisis of 2014 has ended.

“You’d be surprised how quick fruit grows on trees,” said Paul Gonzalez Jr., a buyer for River City Produce in San Antonio. “There’s ample fruit now.”

Prices skyrocketed this spring from the usual $10-$12 for a 40-pound box of limes to up to $125, forcing shoppers and restaurateurs to do the unthinkable — substitute lemons in such staples as margaritas and guacamole.

The high prices were mostly caused by last year’s bad weather, when tropical storms and hurricanes blew the blooms off trees and delayed harvesting for much of Mexico’s lime crop. News articles explored the other reasons for the lime crisis, which included disease and the influence of Mexican drug cartels.

But as summer approaches — “as predicted, the limes loosened up,” Gonzalez said.

That’s good news for margarita drinkers, who will be out in full force Thursday as Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band play a concert at Fort Worth’s Coyote Drive-In, which will be broadcast live to more than 80 drive-ins nationwide.

Allen Smith, a purchasing agent for Chef’s Produce Co. in Dallas, said the limes — known as Persian limes — are now running $10 to $12 a box. He said Mexico’s lime production in the Veracruz region is back on track.

“This is the time of year when they have plenty of fruit,” Smith said.

Smith’s company supplies limes for restaurants, hotels and nursing homes. It bought limes even when the retail demand experienced a slowdown from consumers who were unwilling to pay higher prices.

Grocery stores that usually sell limes for 10 to 25 cents each were asking 50 cents apiece. “We have to have them,” Smith said. “We never stopped buying limes when they were that high.”

Area consumers have already noticed lower prices at grocery stores.

For example, at Supermercado El Rancho in Fort Worth, a special boasted 30 limes for $1. Weekly ads for Albertsons had limes listed at four for $1. The H-E-B grocery store in Burleson was selling limes at five for $1.

Earlier this year, Carlos Rodriguez, owner and chef of Salsa Fuego in west Fort Worth, said he was not using limes at his restaurant and offered lemons to his patrons.

But he’s back to using limes.

“It’s bad when something like that goes up,” Rodriguez said. “People expect it as a complimentary condiment.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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