After weeks in record-high territory, lime prices continued to come down and could soon approach seasonal norms.
“Once they started to drop, they dropped really quickly — $5 to $10 day,” Bret Erickson, president and chief executive officer of the Mission-based Texas International Produce Association, said May 20. “Supplies have come back online, and within the next month they should be a lot closer to normal, if not normal.”
Per-box prices for big Mexican limes topped $110 earlier this spring, thanks mostly to rains during bloom, followed by very cold weather. Smaller fruit was less expensive but still selling for $40-$60.
The week of May 19, prices still varied widely based on size, said Cliff Wiebusch, sales manager of McAllen, Texas-based Val Verde Vegetable Co., which was quoting a price of $12 for 230s but as much as $45 for the largest limes.
“150s and 110s are virtually nonexistent,” Wiebusch said.
On May 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported prices of $45-50 for 40-pound cartons of Mexican limes, up from $26-28 last year at the same time.
Cartons of 150s were $40-45, up from $24-26; 175s rose from $16-18 to $25-30, 200s from $10-12 to $18-20; 230s from $8 to $13-15; and 250s from $6 to $10.
Weekly volumes were still far below 2013 levels as of mid-May. About 43 million pounds shipped in the week ending May 17, down from 182 million pounds in the same week last year, according to USDA.
Season-to-date, about 5.5 billion pounds of Mexican limes had been exported to the U.S. through May 17, down from 6.1 billion pounds last year at the same time.
Fruit size should improve when growing regions in Mexico begin to get some much-needed rain, Wiebusch said. Rain was in the forecast for the end of May, he said.
In addition, as prices come down, growers will be less likely to strip trees to get fruit to market. That should improve not only fruit size but also quality, Wiebusch said.
As of May 20, there was still very little dark-skinned fruit in the pipeline, with most of that fruit slated for Japan and other export markets, he said.
That said, Wiebusch was confident quality was on the upswing as the weather improved and markets began to settle down.