As of early April, prices for large Mexican limes were still $46-52 per carton. ( Pamela Riemenschneider )

Large Mexican limes stubbornly continued to trade at prices of $50 per carton or above in early April, but signs point to easing f.o.b. levels by May.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that April 6 prices in south Texas were $46-52 per carton for size 150 limes, compared with $40-50 per carton on March 21, $18-28 per carton in mid-February and $18-22 per carton in mid-January.

Size 250 Mexican limes were trading at $30-32 per carton, compared with $35-40 per carton on March 17, $20-28 per carton in mid-February and $15-20 per carton in mid-March.

Larger limes sizes are fetching premium f.o.b.s, but that could flip to reflect tighter conditions for small fruit later in the season, said Brian Lapin, account manager for Stellar Distributing, Madera, Calif.

Lapin said April 9 that prices for larger limes could back off current levels by $5-10 per carton by the end of April.

In general, trading conditions were firm, one buyer said.

“As far as supplies right now, they seem to be improved a little bit, especially in comparison with the last month,” said Sean Azzelio, sourcing specialist for Pro*Act LLC, Monterey, Calif.

“Market prices are still pretty firm and demand is strong, but looking forward we are anticipating better supplies for sure.”

Foodservice contract prices for limes begin to decrease in the second quarter, which typically reflects the general market, he said.

“We will start to see better supplies, with smaller sizes initially, with larger sizes to follow,” Azzelio said. “I think we will see market prices beginning to be more in line with spring and summer volumes.”

Azzelio said there is still a limited supply of larger size fruit on the front half of the second quarter, but larger fruit will start to level out in May.

Mexico accounted for 97% of the U.S. total lime shipments in late March, with only light volume reported from Colombia.

USDA reported weekly shipments of Mexican limes totaled 527,500 40-pound cartons for the week of March 25-31, up 16% from the same week a year ago.

Last year, the USDA reported that size 150 Mexican limes traded at $18-24 in early May, falling to $8-14 per carton by early June and $6-8 per carton by early July.

Prices began to escalate again by August, when they reached $16-20 per carton Aug. 26.