Sour happy hour? Lime prices soar, but expected to fall; frost blamed for short supply in offseason

Those seeking an adult beverage garnished with a lime to celebrate the upcoming Cinco de Mayo might have a little bit of trouble.

Lime prices have soared as frosty weather crushed what remained of the offseason for lime production, said Ronnie Cohen, the VP of sales for New Jersey-based Vision Import Group LLC.

“This is like a once in a 50-year kind of thing,” Cohen said.

A 10-lb carton of limes sold in a U.S. terminal market for $5-$6 in July 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In April, the same shipment cost up to $46.

Restaurants hesitant to increase prices have sought out alternatives for limes or eaten the increased cost, said Annika Stensson, senior manager of research communications, National Restaurant Association.

“Consumers are fairly sensitive to the cost of dining out,” Stensson said.

Stensson said restaurants could temporarily take items such as margaritas off of happy hour menus or require patrons to request limes with their drinks or garnishes.

But Stensson said the price increases should not last long.

“It’s not expected to be for months and months,” she said.

In fact, Cohen said prices already are starting to drop as the new crop arrives.

“Right now, it’s dropping as we speak,” he said.

Cohen said media reports claiming drug cartels were impacting prices were inaccurate. Such activities potentially could impact the market more than a poor crop.

“There’s nothing to it,” he said.

Cohen said the price increases are simply due to a short supply while demand remains high.

He said he is not concerned consumers could change their habits based on the short burst in prices.

“I think they’ll go back to buying what they were buying,” Cohen said. “There’s no real replacement for a lime.”

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