Lime markets worldwide are in a shift, with prices rising and supplies struggling to keep up, as they face an array of influential factors, including phytosanitary. In the Netherlands, lime importers assure that there will be no shortage of limes during the summer season, following a period of oversupply and low prices. Meanwhile, Italy is witnessing a slow recovery in lime prices after a surplus of product led to significant drops. Reduced import volumes from Brazil and increased demand from tourist locations are contributing to the price improvement. In South Africa, the lime season is winding down due to wintry weather, while in North America, Mexican lime crops are being affected by high temperatures and humidity, resulting in smaller sizes and decreased availability of premium grades. Additionally, Argentina is facing challenges in exporting limes, primarily due to transit times and insufficient volume. Lastly, Brazil's Tahiti lime export sector is under threat from the citrus canker bacterium, with increased detections of infected fruits in the European Union, posing a risk to ongoing shipments. The government is taking measures to ensure the continuation of Tahiti Acid Lima exports. How markets will continue to develop as summer continues in the Northern Hemisphere remains to be seen.
Netherlands: No shortage of limes expected this summer
"After a difficult June month with far too much supply of limes on the European market and therefore very low prices, we see that partly due to slightly lower volumes, prices are improving again, however, there are enough limes available and we do not expect any shortages this summer," says a Dutch importer.
Italy: Reduced import volumes from Brazil raise low prices
After a month and a half of low prices for lime, the market is slowly recovering. As one wholesaler from the north of Italy says, "until a week ago, prices were very low due to the surplus of product. In the first days of July, limes cost €6 per pack (about €1.5/kg), while in week 27 they reached €10 per pack. Despite this, prices are still low compared to production and logistics costs," he says. According to the trader, demand will increase even more in the coming days because lime is used a lot in tourist locations, especially in summer. In Europe, most of the lime arrives in the port of Rotterdam, after a four-week journey by ship. "The most popular product is the bright green one: when it sits too long in the warehouses, and turns a yellowish colour, it becomes depreciated."
"Until about ten days ago, the selling price of Brazilian limes was around €5 per 4.5 kg pack, or a little more than €1.00/kg," adds another wholesaler from northern Italy. "Now we are seeing a slight recovery, partly due to the rains in Brazil, which have greatly reduced export volumes. The current selling price is around €8.00-8.50 per pack. Containers of limes arriving in Europe this week (the 28th of 2023) are about 120. In 15 days' time, just over 70 are expected, so almost half." Another main origin currently on the market is Mexico. Smaller volumes from Colombia and Vietnam play a complementary role. "The Mexican lime always registers at least €0.50 more than the Brazilian product."
Also confirming the low prices until a fortnight ago is a wholesaler from southern Italy. "Market prices were at less than €1,00/kg for the product from South America. Since this week, prices seem to be recovering. A trend that we have been noticing in the last couple of years is the preference of the markets for Brazilian lime over Mexican lime."
South Africa: Wintery weather ends South African lime season
Recent icy temperatures in South Africa and snow in the high-lying areas of the subtropical northeast, will bring a close to the fresh lime season as limes turn yellow and are sent for juicing.
Limes are a summer fruit, peaking in December when the average municipal market price is around R7 (0.34 euro) per kilogram. Currently at the tail-end of the season, a kilogram of limes can fetch R25 (1.23 euro) at the municipal market.
In November when there aren’t South African limes available, Brazilian limes are imported. There has been some expansion in lime orchards in South Africa, but since it’s not possible to compete with Brazil on lime exports, most production is for the domestic market which can, however, easily be saturated. Most commonly planted is the Bearss or Persian lime.
There was high production over the past season and the fresh market was quite full. The restaurant and hospitality sector has picked up after COVID-19, which is very good news for the popular cocktail fruit.
North America: Heat, humidity cause greater shrink in Mexican lime packouts for North America
High temperatures and humidity are impacting the Mexican lime crop.
While the crop looks to be larger than last year at this time, the weather is impacting packouts.
This is because the limes are turning quicker, have a shorter shelf life and aren’t growing to larger sizes. Other issues include some thinner skins and lighter colour and the orchards can’t be kept clean since the grass helps mitigate tree stress.
To manage the issue, the shipper is trying to hold fruit slightly longer in cooling in Mexico to avoid subsequent repacks. “However it’s hard to sit on limes for a few days with the demand,” says one shipper, adding that the price jumped recently by about $10.
Ultimately, there’s going to be less volume available for #1 grade. “We see an estimated 35-55 percent shrink when limes are packaged into a Fancy pack which causes the price to increase by 35-55 percent,” says the shipper. Fancy limes will be more expensive while 110/150/175s will be limited.
Mexico: Limes expected to be supplied year round
The harvest of Persian limes for the months of July to September is ready to go to the main important markets of the U.S. and Europe, said one grower exporter.
A large producer in Jalisco, Mexico with 1,200 hectares, 800 of key lime and 400 of Persian lime expect their harvest season to be year-round, with their high production season starting from September to January. Their main market is the local market and the United States, mainly McAllen. They also send another part of their production to the state of Colima. The prices they receive in the U.S. are about $18-$20 per box of 40 pounds.
Argentina: Challenging lime season
Argentina’s citrus sector is finding the season challenging with very little limes exported. One grower and exporter said they have only exported two pallets per container for a customer's specific request. The rest of their limes are sold in the local market. “This is mainly due to the long transit time and lack of volume - so we did not export limes.”
Brazil: Export of Brazilian limes to the EU possibly at risk
Xanthomonas citri, the bacterium responsible for citrus canker, is posing a significant threat to Brazil's Tahiti lime export sector, according to an acid lime producer from Brazil. Over the past four years, the rapid rise in detections of infected fruits in the European Union, which is subject to strict quarantine measures for international trade, is jeopardizing the ongoing shipment of fruits. In fact, the Government of Sao Paulo confirmed that "with the aim of ensuring and guaranteeing the export of Tahiti Acid Lima to the European Union, agronomists from the Agricultural Defense Coordination (CDA) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Supply (SAA) monitored between June 22 and July 6 tax auditors of the European bloc. During the mission that audited the Production and Consolidation Units (packing houses), the team visited the three main exporting regions of the State of São Paulo in an audit that also included the participation of a team from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAPA)”. In the coming months, the report with the evaluation of the auditors will be published.
Until May of this year, the State of São Paulo had exported 44,000 tons of limes, a figure that corresponded to almost 39 million dollars.
Next week: Global Market Overview Ginger!