Limes are becoming increasingly well-known among European consumers, with higher volumes of consumption in summer. Brazil and Mexico dominate the market, although new players like Peru and Colombia are appearing.
Imports of fresh lime into the European market have grown by 33% between 2013 and 2017, and the trend is expected to continue.
The Center for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) stated in a report that this segment presents opportunities for countries with supply alternatives to the two dominant nations of the moment, which are Mexico and Brazil. However, it cautions, the availability of the fruit worldwide can decrease prices, so exporters should bear in mind that these values are often unpredictable.
The most popular varieties and most used for fresh consumption are: Persian (or Tahiti) lime, which is popular for its seedless nature and dominates the market of the Old Continent; and the Key (or Mexican) lime, which is a smaller variety, does have seeds makes, and is less favored among the public.
The CBI told exporters their products must comply with some basic characteristics to be accepted in this demanding market, such as: having an intact appearance, being free of bruises or cured cuts, not having a trace of foreign matter, being practically free of pesticides, not having signs of shrinkage and dehydration, not presenting damage caused by low temperatures or freezing, and that they shouldn't show abnormal external moisture or have strange odors and flavors.
On the other hand, the use of yellow and white beeswax, candelilla wax and carnauba wax are admitted. However, the report adds, due to the increased use of lime peel in the preparation of cocktails and the beer presentations, customers can specify their preferences regarding the preservation of the fruit and require they don't have any waxes.
In addition, the product has to arrive at a suitable degree of maturity, showing an appropriate color (mostly green), and with a juice content of at least 40% in Key limes and 42% in Persians limes.
European imports of fresh limes have increased from 111 thousand tons in 2013 to 148 thousand tons in 2017, originating mostly from developing countries. The only developed countries that export limes to Europe are Israel and the United States, although they do so in small quantities.
The Netherlands and the United Kingdom are the biggest European importers of limes from developing countries.
With 110 thousand tons, the Netherlands is the largest importer and the one that registered the highest growth. In 2017, the Netherlands re-exported 93 thousand tons of lime; the main destinations were Germany, France, and the United Kingdom.
Lime consumption in Eastern Europe, in countries such as Romania and Bulgaria, is low but has a sustained growth, which depends on re-exports.