Larger limes likely to stay hard to find

04/27/2004 12:00:00 AM
Chris Koger

“There is a shortage of the larger sizes, but small limes are relatively easy to find,” says Brian Hitchings, lime salesman for London Fruit Inc., Pharr, Texas.

(April 27) PHARR, Texas — A new crop of limes from Tabasco and Veracruz, Mexico — the main suppliers of fresh limes in the U.S. — is leaving importers with smaller fruit, a situation that could last until late May.

Even with a disparity in prices on the smaller and larger fruit, demand still remains high enough on the small limes, so Mexican growers are heavily picking the new crop before it takes on size.

On April 26, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported f.o.b.s for 40-pound cartons of limes crossing at South Texas at $30-34 for 110s, 150s and 175s, $24-26 for 200s, $18-22 for 230s and $16-18 for 250s.

Last year at the same time, the USDA reported 40-pound cartons of 110s-150s at $34, 175s at $32-34, 200s at $32, 230s at $28 and 250s at $26.

"There is a shortage of the larger sizes, but small limes are relatively easy to find,” said Brian Hitchings, lime salesman for London Fruit Inc., on April 26. “It’ll probably stay that way for about a month. What happens, with a shorter crop and higher prices, they’ve been picking the limes before they have a chance to size up.”

Hitchings said prices are likely to drop as volumes increase in June.

Gary Wiener, sales manager in the Pharr office of the L&M Cos. Inc., Raleigh, N.C., said size 230s to 250s are plentiful, but 150s, 110s and even 175s are in short supply.

Some of the larger fruit has quality issues, following post-Easter rains in the main production area of Martinez de la Torre, Veracruz, said Mary Velasquez, sales manager at Coast Tropical, Edinburg. If fruit takes on excess water too fast, it is susceptible to rotting.

Most of the limes consumed in the U.S. come through south Texas, and importers repack or bag the limes before distributing them.

“We’ve been doing a lot more bagged business this year than we ever have,” Velasquez said. “It seems the retailers are liking the (2-pound) bags more. Obviously, right now, with limes being so high, it’s not the time for bags, but when the price comes down, it will pick up.”

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