Regular supplies and steadier pricing is the state of the imported lime market.
“Right now, there’s a steady flow of fruit,” says Steven Leal with S&J Distributing in Edinburg, Texas. “We’re not inundated with fruit but it’s a good steady summer supply showing up.”
The limes are coming in from Mexico and have been in need of rain there. “There’d been some sporadic rains last week but that seems to have subsided for the most part,” says Leal. “They haven’t been getting much of it which has caused issues in regards to sizing within the past few months.”
While volume is on par with supplies at this time last year, small fruit has been dominating the market, particularly 230s and 250s. “Usually the market will cycle up to big fruit and then go back to smaller new crop. But we haven’t seen a big fruit wave in months,” says Leal. “Along with the rain, we had also gone into new crop when you get some smaller fruit. It’s a combination of both factors.”
This has created some gaps in the market place. “The big fruit was on the higher end of the market for the past few months. A recently as two weeks ago, big fruit was $32-$34. And a 230-250 count was $7,” says Leal. “The week before that, big fruit was at $38 while 230-250 was $10.” He adds that the pricing gaps started approximately six weeks ago.
Demand picking up
At the same time, demand is starting to develop again for limes. “I consider Memorial Day to be the gateway for summer pricing,” says Leal. “Right now there’s good demand that’s starting to pick up because price points have reached summer levels. There’s good movement but I think that’s heavily attributed to where the price points are at. And there’s also not an oversaturation of fruit.”
In fact, oversaturation of the market has been an issue at times. “There are more regions than ever producing in Mexico,” says Leal, adding that the bulk of imports right now hail from Mexico with a small amount also coming in from Guatemala and Colombia. “For years, the state of Veracruz has been the main producer of Persian limes. Though it’s still the main producer, I think you’ve got 12-14 states that are now growing Persian limes, including some Western states of Mexico shipping to Western and Central parts of the United States. There was demand for it but everyone got the idea at the same time so the Persian lime industry can over saturate at times.”
That said, looking ahead, Leal notes the market is moving closer to across the board summer pricing. “It’s levelled off and we’re starting to see this week that the fruit has sized up. Instead of a tremendous amount of 230s and 250s, we see a lot more 200s and 175s. We will see some dips,” he says. “The big fruit, so the 110, 150 and 175, will come off over the next few weeks. And once that comes off, we’ll hit our summer market and that should sustain for about three months.”