Friday, April 25, 2014

Crisis! Calamity! Disaster! Lime Shortage Puts Squeeze on Margaritas!

And Coronas as well!

At the Wall Street Journal, "Lime Shortage Drives Up Prices at Bars and Restaurants in U.S.: As Margarita-Fueled Cinco de Mayo Nears, Mexican Restaurants Ask Customers to Harvest From Home":
FULLERTON, Calif. — When Matador Cantina's general manager Dave Dennis saw recently that a sharp rise in the price of limes was putting the squeeze on this Mexican restaurant, he called his mother.

But the limes on the tree in her yard here weren't ripe. So he asked his staff to hit up their friends for limes. He got just a few. With his cantina in need of 1,000 limes a week to use in cocktails, Corona beer and food, he decided to go public.

"Bring us a bag full of limes and get a crafted cocktail for just 25 cents," Mr. Dennis posted on Facebook and Twitter. He put up a sign in the restaurant: "WE WANT YOUR LIMES."

Bars and restaurants across the country have been affected by what they are calling the "great lime crisis of 2014." And the timing could hardly be worse: It comes just as the fruit's highest-profile day of the year is approaching—the margarita-fueled Cinco de Mayo.

In Mexico, the holiday commemorates the Mexican army's victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. In the U.S., Cinco de Mayo is a big deal, too. Here it has evolved into a celebration of Mexican heritage, cuisine and drink.

Mexico, one of the world's largest lime exporters, supplies the U.S. with 97% of the limes it consumes, nearly 500,000 tons annually. But this past winter, heavy rains hit lime-growing regions such as Veracruz, said Mexican Agriculture Ministry spokesman Francisco Burguete, delaying the usual harvest and driving prices to an all-time high. A 40-pound crate of Mexican limes has been fetching more than $100 wholesale, four times the typical seasonal price.

By weight, Mexican limes are commanding a higher price than Mexican crude oil. Cruz Sandoval of Ingardia Bros. Produce in Santa Ana, Calif., which sells to U.S. restaurants, said, "All our customers want to know is when the lime price is coming down."

Sensing an opportunity, liquor producer Beam Inc., of Deerfield, Ill., has launched a social-media campaign urging consumers this Cinco de Mayo to "ride out the lime shortage with Hornitos Lime Shot," its tequila "with the flavor of refreshing lime."

"The best way to deal with the lime shortage is to sip lime cocktails," said Jared Fix, vice president of Beam's "mixables."

Mexican limes aren't just used in drinks, of course. Ceviche, a dish made of fresh raw seafood, is cured in lime juice. Limes are also de rigueur in guacamole and fish tacos. Thai cuisine, too, makes liberal use of limes.

In response to the shortage, things are changing north of the border. Alaska Airlines has scrapped limes from cocktails in coach. Mexican restaurants, which depend on drinks like the salt-rimmed, tequila-based margarita to drive traffic, can't take such radical measures.

When limes hit $100, "it was kind of def-con for lime juice," said Mike Barrow, beverage director of the Tacolicious restaurant chain in San Francisco, stressing the urgency of the situation.
Well, looks like there solid demand for limes, lol.

More at the link.