(March 6) Florida’s lime marketing order is no more.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced March 4 it was terminating the federal marketing order for Florida limes. The action also serves to end grade, size and maturity regulations for imported limes.
A rule published in the March 5 Federal Register terminated the marketing order, which had been in effect since 1955.
The marketing order authorized grade, size, quality, pack, and container requirements, although such requirements have been suspended since February of last year.
Continuance votes must be conducted every sixth year, and last September’s referendum on the lime marketing order showed only 18% of growers representing 57% of the state’s production voted to preserve the order.
Steve Robinson, general manager for Coast Tropical, Princeton, Fla., said the lack of regulations pulls the entire market for limes lower because some Mexican growers pack big volumes of small limes.
”It drags the other sizes down with them,” he said. Mexico controls about 90% to 95% of the lime market in the U.S., he said.
While there is hardly enough limes in Florida to sustain the marketing order — only 150 acres or so compared to more than 5,000 before Hurricane Andrew and citrus canker decimated south Florida groves — he said getting rid of the marketing order regulations will hurt consumers.
Herbert Yamamura, general manager of New Limeco LLC, Homestead, Fla., agreed, noting regulations required minimum size (1 7/8 inches in diameter) and minimum juice standards (42% by volume) for imports as well as Florida limes.
“The point is that rules and regulations were good for consumers,” he said. The lack of size and juice restrictions will hurt quality, especially when supplies are tight.
He said Florida limes still have to conform to state law which sets the minimum diameter. Florida limes account for just 1% or 2% of the U.S. demand, he said.
“We weren’t dictating quality. We were trying to help consumers,” he said.