Mexican limes were trading as high as $50 on March 21, but prices are expected to ease in April. ( File photo )

Rain in Mexico’s Veracruz growing region held back volume and pushed lime prices as high as $50 per carton in mid-March, but marketers expect better supply and easing prices by mid-April.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, size 150 Mexican limes were trading at $40 to $50 per carton on March 21, up from $18-28 per carton in mid-February and $18-22 per carton in mid-January. Size 250 Mexican limes were trading at $35 to $40 per carton on March 17, up from $20 to $28 per carton in mid-February and $15 to $20 per carton in mid-March.

“The problem today is rain in (Veracruz) and growers have stopped harvest, which is helping to keep prices higher,” said Pedro Zamudio, procurement representative for Coast Tropical, McAllen, Texas.

Erratic weather in Mexico often makes March a tough time of year for the lime market and this year hasn’t been any different, said Sean Azzelio, sourcing specialist for Pro*Act LLC, Monterey, Calif.

Azzelio said he expects growers to get into younger blossoming groves, which will feature better supply of smaller fruit.

“I don’t expect market prices to change on the large sizes any time soon, but some of the smaller limes might see adjustments over the next two weeks,” he said March 20.

A general easing of the lime market is anticipated by the second week of April, he said, when production is expected to increase out of Veracruz.

Rudy Uresti, CEO of Jade Produce LLC, Mission, Texas, said March 21 that the hot market will cause Veracruz growers to pick as much fruit as possible in the next couple of weeks. That could put downward price pressure on smaller fruit, but could limit the volume and support the prices for larger fruit, he said.

Mexico accounted for 93% of total U.S. lime supply in mid-March, according to the USDA, with remaining light volume from Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Peru.

Azzelio said pricing should return to normal levels by May.

Last year, the USDA reported that size 150 Mexican limes traded at $18 to $24 in early May, falling to $8 to $14 per carton by early June and $6 to $8 per carton by early July. Prices began to escalate again by August, when prices reached $16 to $20 per carton Aug. 26.

Azzelio said the majority of foodservice and retail customers typically prefer lime sizes in the range of 110s to 150s, with smaller sizes preferred for retail two-pound bags.