A nationwide lime shortage is affecting Bloomington bars and restaurants, and with Cinco de Mayo coming up, local establishments are trying to adapt to the shortage.
Colin Boilini owns The Rail, a Bloomington cocktail bar. He says limes are a key ingredient in many of the cocktails he sells, but lately they’ve been costing him a lot more money as they’ve skyrocketed in price.
“So for a 40 pound, 110 count box of limes we used to pay around $40,” Boilini says. “I have been, for the last several weeks, paying…it’s gone up from about $100, then it was about $110 up to $135. The high was $139 for the same case of limes.”
The situation is the same across the U.S.
The vast majority of our limes come from Mexico, which has been dealing with bad weather, disease, and possibly drug cartel violence – all of which translate to increased cost to distributors and consumers.
Purdue horticulture professor Bruce Bordelon says after the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, cheaply grown limes in Mexico gradually took over the market.
Additional disasters like hurricanes and disease destroyed the homegrown market.
“So you have it specialized in this region,” Bordelon says. “Now it’s fairly concentrated, you have some bad weather, you have some problems, even just poor fruit because of rainfall during flowering – anything like that could create a big problem. And then in one year, you’ve depressed supply because it’s all coming from one region.”
In the meantime, restaurant and bar owners are looking for ways to deal with the sudden hit to their bottom lines.
Boilini has had to deal with receiving inferior quality fruit, as well as cases filled with fewer limes than expected.
“I think other people have less reliance on limes than my place does and so they’re able to avoid it and say, sorry, we don’t have limes for that,” Boilini says. “But the nature of our business is we’re going to use them. I’m not going to buy pre-made, pasteurized juice in a bottle from somewhere, and I’m not going to put lemon juice in a gimlet or a mojito.”
In recent years, there’s been a small resurgence in lime growing in Florida, but it’s nowhere near big enough to relieve the current shortage.
Jump to 44 sec. in the video below to see how one business is dealing with the shortage: