Jalisco's Persian lime producers are seeking to expand horizons and markets through technology and safety in their crops, within the framework of an agroindustrial strategy that has made this Mexican state an international power in the sector.
"We only want to achieve a quality of export, with the treatment to the trees, the fertigation, treatment of the leaves, and prunings. In addition we want to continue changing to have an organic production. If we don't achieve a 100% organic production, we want to have a semi-organic production. We'll do this by working on the soils' quality," stated Justo Camacho Barreto in an interview.
Camacho is the president of the Jalisco Persian Lime Product System, which hopes to complement its commitment to the internationalization of its products, which it currently sends to the United States, with Asia, Europe or Canada.
"The idea is to manage [in limes] a quality standard that can be shipped to the United States. The business is in exports. I have always tried to produce a quality product so as to avoid having problems," said Rodolfo Gerardo Ramirez Zarate, a lime producer from the town of Tepehuaje de Morelos, a neighboring town of San Martin de Hidalgo.
According to Mexico's Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), Jalisco is the leading producer of various merchandise at the national level.
These include confectionery, eggs, edible oil, sauces, dairy products, berries, agave, tequila, and beverages.
In addition, it is the second largest producer of beef, sugar cane, watermelon, green tomatoes, maize, honey and avocado, and accounts for 12% of Mexico's gross domestic product (GDP) in the agricultural food sector.
There are about 95 producers grouped in the area of San Martin that dedicate about 1,500 hectares to the cultivation of this lime, which they say is wanted in the world for its juice and degree of acidity.
"I have 4.5 hectares, my trees are 3 years old and nearly every 40 days I get an average of 10 to 12 tons of lime," stated Ramirez, who exports 80% of his production.
"You have to have an irrigation system, I have two drip systems for each tree and we water them 8 hours twice a week," he added.
Camacho integrates a network of about 60 producers that has already taken its product to the United States and Germany, and has opted for a last generation packaging line that required an investment of nearly 263,000 dollars.
"The machine tells you which lime is good for export and which one isn't with sensors. You immediately realize how the production you are taking to the packaging line is," stated Camacho, who in a few weeks has seen producers from Kazakhstan and Chile interested in avocados and limes from Jalisco.
This year the complication for the businessmen has been the presence of the miner (a worm that goes inside the bundle of leaves) in the lime plants, which attacks the suckers and arrives at the beginning of the rainy season. Due to its presence, the leaves no longer perform the proper photosynthesis.
To control it producers use products that are compatible with the norms of the European Union and the US Food and Drug Administration. (FDA).
Labor is scarce in the vicinity of the producing municipalities (Los Guerrero, Tepehuaje, and San Martin). These lands have been producing limes for 20 years. Traditional crops in the area include maize, sugar cane, and sorghum.
About 20 people can harvest 6 tons of product in 8 hours of work, at an hourly wage of 36 pesos (US $1.89).
There are two types of lime plants in this area: volkamerian and macrophylla, which are mainly brought from nurseries installed in Atotonilco (eastern Jalisco), where there are about 3,000 hectares in production.
The producers are trying to grow their own plants, and to create a label that identifies the origin of their limes.
"We want to carry out the Lime Fair and we decided to make a logo to identify the Valles region, specifically the municipality of San Martin," stated Camacho.