It’s been awhile since we did one of these. The lime quality-price ratio has held mercifully steady this winter, with usually decent-to-high quality H Mart limes at 4/$1 and often even better quality Hung Phat limes at 3/$1. Safeway and Giant and Wegman’s are all in the 2/$3 neighborhood, sometimes worse, and not usually any better quality. Considering last winter’s lime disaster, this is all rainbows and unicorns.
But how long can we ride this
gravy lime juice train until it derails?* That will be one sticky, delicious, depressing derailment. We in the U.S. are increasingly dependent on Mexican limes (brief explanation why is here), and Mexican lime crops are on a moderate but decidedly downward trend.
* The O’Jays sang “Love Train” so I feel like maybe I can get away with this metaphor (get it? O’Jay? OJ? Orange Juice? Love Train? Lime Train?)…maybe not.
Thanks to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service’s Global Agriculture Information Network, we can keep tabs on international lime data: Mexican production of Persian limes is down about 5% year over year from 2010 to 2011 to (expected) 2012. Which means prices are likely to creep up — although maybe not, since reportedly the domestic Mexican lime market is saturated (how is that even possible!?) so they may increase exports. If we’re lucky, at least quality might be maintained. Here is one excerpt from the USDA FAS GAIN (whew) 2011 annual report (published 12/15/2011) for Mexican citrus (whole report here in PDF):
Veracruz went through a series of weather events that affected the flowering of the Persian lime trees. During September/October 2011, expected rainfall did not materialize and during November it rained when it should have been drier. The state of Michoacán was hit by heavy rainfall from Hurricane “Hilary” in September 2011 affecting the flowering of Key lime trees. During the month of October, hurricane “Jova” affected Key lime trees in the state of Colima.
Here is a vivid PPT deck on the Mexican lime industry. For neither this nor the GAIN report will I say “read the whole thing” — but to me, it is kind of interesting. My lime obsession is starting to remind me of Adrian Mole and the Norwegian leather industry — not that there’s anything (much) wrong with that.