Lime markets were still at historic highs in mid-April, but they were showing some signs of coming down.
“Prices are starting to weaken a little,” Cliff Wiebusch, sales manager of McAllen, Texas-based Val Verde Vegetable Co., said April 16.
On April 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported a price of $40 for 40-pound boxes of Mexican limes 275s. Size 250s were $60-65, 230s $85 and 200s $95-100.
But 175s and larger were still very scarce and fetching north of $100.
“Sixty to 70% of what we’re shipping is 230s to 250s,” Wiebusch said.
Supplies were too scarce for the USDA to quote prices April 8.
On April 15, a grower quoted a price of $110 for large limes to Bret Erickson, president and chief executive officer of the Mission-based Texas International Produce Association.
And buyers are still paying a high premium for small, low-quality fruit, Erickson said.
“It’s small fruit with not much juice,” he said. “That’s all that’s left, they’ve stripped the trees so hard.”
Erickson had, however, heard reports that some larger companies were holding off on picking to get bigger sizes and better quality.
The slight downward price trend on smaller fruit could be arrested later the week of April 14, as the effects of workers taking time off before Easter kick in, Wiebusch said.
And even with the slight drops, markets should remain very strong — particularly on large fruit — until June, when harvest begins on the next crop, Wiebusch said.
Limes reported stolen
Reports of truckloads of limes being stolen in Mexico because of their value are likely true, Wiebusch said.
“I don’t think it’s a common event, but some of that probably has happened,” he said.
Fruit harvested in Veracruz and trucked through the high-crime state of Tamaulipas is particularly at risk, Wiebusch said.
“They park their trucks at night and try to drive during the day,” he said.
At current prices, a truckload of limes is worth at least $80,000, Wiebusch said.
Erickson also had heard reports of loads being stolen “here and there,” but he didn’t know of any specific Texas importers who had lost loads.