The supply of limes from Brazil and Mexico is currently slow, mostly as a result of the weather conditions in Brazil and the seasonal transition in Mexico. Guatemala is a promising lime producer and Australia is committed to growth in the sector. Chinese growers fear frost damage. In the US and Europe, the supply is currently low. Leading up to the summer, demand will increase in these continents. In Europe, the peak in demand is expected during the European Football Championship. Spanish lemon growers are increasingly making the switch to limes due to them being a more lucrative crop.
Difficult season in Brazil because of rainfall
The bad weather has caused difficulties during the Brazilian season. Heavy rain in January and February took a big toll. While the country is able to produce limes year-round, the peak season lasts between December and July, with an additional peak between January and March. A trader with 300 hectares explains that 35 percent of the production is sold on the domestic market. The remaining 65 percent is intended for export, especially for the European market, followed by the Middle East, which is a growing destination for the limes. Brazil also fills the gaps in the Canadian market when the Mexican supply is insufficient. Due to phytosanitary reasons, the country is not allowed to export to the US.
Growth in the Middle East, according to an exporter, is mainly due to the lower supply from Asia, especially Vietnam.
Lower supply from Mexico
Because of the transition between seasons, the Mexican supply is currently lower. This has consequences for the export markets, which receive smaller volumes, although it is not an exceptional situation. Mexico's main export markets are the US and Europe, particularly the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and France. In Asia, Japan and South Korea are good markets for the country's limes. Furthermore, China is expected to open its borders to the fruit.
Guatemala has plenty of potential for lime cultivation
With an area of 11,000 hectares, Guatemala is a small player in the market compared to other countries in Central America. Nevertheless, the country exports to several destinations, including Europe. The growing areas are located in the north of the country. Although the acreage is still small, the country has great potential for lime cultivation. The peak season runs from May to September, and there is also production between October and December. Between January and April the volume is smaller.
Australian production on the rise
Limes have a share of about 5.5 percent of the Australian citrus fruit industry. The main variety is the Tahiti. Even though limes are available year-round, the peak is recorded between January and April. For this season, prospects point to a production totalling 9,180 tonnes.
Over the next four years, the sector is expected to grow by 33 percent; by 2025, the volume should be 58.6 percent greater. That equates to a volume totalling 14,566 tonnes. The main growing areas are located in New South Wales, the Murray Valley in Northern Victoria, Riverland in South Australia and some parts of Western Australia.
China fears frost damage
Chinese limes are grown on the tropical island of Hainan, in the south, and in Anyue, in the Sichuan province. Producers in Anyue fear that the frost in December and January will take a toll on the harvest, as it delayed the flowering process. Local governments have invested heavily in the fruit's cultivation in recent years; therefore, the sector has professionalised and the yield has improved. The bulk of exports are intended for South East Asian markets and Russia.
The import of limes is also growing, especially when it comes to special varieties, which are in good demand. In late March, the first pink limes from California were imported into China. These cost 120 Euro per box.
Smaller supply Mexico to United States
The seasonal transition in Mexico has led to a sluggish supply in the US. The fruit's demand remains stable, therefore, prices are high. On 31 March, a 40 pound box of seedless 110-sized limes cost between 26 and 32 dollars in Texas. For size 175, the price stood at 30 to 36 dollars. Incidentally, this is not exceptional for this time of the year. In the coming weeks, a greater supply is expected. Ahead of the summer, demand traditionally increases.
Peak expected in Europe due to European Football Championship
The supply from Brazil and Mexico is currently low, but prices have not shot up, since demand has not been great. In preparation for the summer, traders expect demand to increase. The demand for limes is always greater in the summer months, but this year there will also be a European Football Championship, which should give it an additional boost.
In the coming months, a better supply is expected after Brazil and Mexico overcome their issues. The prices in Switzerland currently stand at around seven Euro per 4.5 kg.
Israel exporting a smaller volume
The harvest in Israel kicks off by the end of July and lasts until September. The season is short because of the hot summers in the growing areas. The production of limes is small, with about 200 tonnes exported this season; a year earlier, this figure reached 713 tonnes and in the previous year shipments totalled 421 tonnes. Despite the declining export volume, Israeli growers are looking for ways to boost production, both for export and for the domestic market. If Mexico has shortages, Israel can surely compete on the world market. In general, the price of Israeli limes is lower. Due to the many hours of sunshine, the fruit's colour is lighter. The local market, although small, offers good opportunities to lime traders.
Spanish growers switch from lemons to limes
Spanish growers see a lot of potential in the cultivation of limes. The largest growing areas are located in Murcia, Alicante and Malaga. Growers are increasingly switching from lemons to limes. One of the reasons is the long season, as the lemon campaign ends earlier. Moreover, both the yield and prices are really good, which together with a growing demand make limes a very attractive product. The most commonly grown variety is the Bearss; the harvest in Murcia lasts from August to October.
Limes are sold both on the domestic and export markets. Demand from the export markets is actually increasing year after year. Spanish limes have a good quality and a logistical advantage compared to other countries; however, the Spanish sector still needs to catch up in terms of infrastructure, as the sorting during the harvest period is still carried out mostly manually.
Russia: a small market
Russian consumers are not very interested in limes. A retailer explains they conducted a test, but the limes were hardly sold. There are therefore no plans to include this green citrus fruit again on the range anytime soon. The market for limes is small and sales concentrate mostly in high-end supermarkets.
Every week, FreshPlaza and AGF.nl publish an overview of the market situation of a product in a global context. With these articles
we aim to provide a view of a global market shrinking due to globalisation. Next time, apples will be in the spotlight.