The lime market in different parts of the world is experiencing varied conditions. In the Netherlands, after a period of low prices, the market for limes has significantly improved due to increasing demand and better quality arrivals.
Similarly in the UK, lime prices have gone from highs to lows since Christmas, with limited supplies from Mexico and heavy rain affecting production in Brazil.
Germany has maintained purchasing prices despite rising costs, with organic limes from Colombia enjoying increased demand.
Meanwhile, Italy is currently seeing limited quantities of limes, predominantly from Brazil, with prices close to or exceeding €15 per package.
In South Africa, limes are a difficult product to sell, with slow market conditions and limited demand. In North America, there are currently limited supplies of limes due to the shutdown during Holy Week in Mexico, with more small fruit expected and lower prices to come after Easter.
Global lime market overview
Netherlands: Market for limes greatly improved after period of low prices
After a period of extremely low prices, the market for limes in the Netherlands has now greatly improved.
“Export volumes have dropped considerably and the markets in Europe are empty every week as demand is now also increasing. The rain in Brazil has decreased and the quality of the latest arrivals is also improving now,” said a Dutch importer.
France: Weather conditions in Brazil affect supply of limes
The French market has also noticed the effect of the weather difficulties which affected producers in Brazil, causing volumes to drop and resulting in very high prices on the market.
As for the demand, it is average for this time of year, but it is generally not with the approach of Easter that consumption increases, rather there’s more when summer arrives.
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Germany: Purchasing prices maintained despite rising costs
Organic limes from Colombia in particular enjoyed increased demand last year. Meanwhile, purchasing prices could be maintained for the most part despite rising costs, according to an importer.
Currently, the lime market also seems to be benefiting from the difficult end of season with weaker qualities of Primofiori lemons in Spain.
UK: Lime prices go from highs to lows on British market
In 2022 lime prices were sky-high on the British market as Mexico was not producing enough to satisfy the US market, meaning very limited amounts were sent to European markets. Prices stayed high all year.
These consistently high prices were unusual for the lime market, as they usually fluctuate more at the end of the year. Prices did come down after Christmas, right down.
At the close of the year the supply was good, but the post-Christmas market is not the best time for limes, as many people have stopped partying and going out. The increase in the cost of living also affected demand.
Following this, prices were well below where they normally are from January to March but that has all changed now.
There are five regions in Brazil which grow limes for the export market, normally if one or two are getting bad weather, the other three can make up for it, but all five regions have had heavy rain for the last four weeks meaning growers haven’t been able to harvest or pack any limes.
Peru could make up a bit of the shortfall, but the US market has been hot in March and this continues into April, so other suppliers are going there as transport to the US is easier than to Europe.
The fruit from Brazil will come eventually, but this shortage will last for a month at least, after which it may then come all at once. Brazilian exporters are going to want to hold on to the current high price, but that probably won’t be possible.
Italy: Prices of limes in first quarter of 2023 below expectations
On the Italian markets, limes are predominantly of Brazilian origin at the moment. Small quantities will come in from Mexico, Colombia and Peru soon. The weather (mainly heavy rainfall) had an important impact on the quality of the citrus fruit and the volume.
“The arriving limes are few and they will remain this way for a couple of weeks yet. The volumes of the premium category entering the European markets, including Italy, are even more limited. This justifies the higher price: the current quotations are close to, and in some cases exceed, 15 Euro per package, after the very low prices recorded until the beginning of March,” says a wholesaler from northern Italy.
“From the point of view of prices, despite the recent increase, the balance of the first quarter of this year is below expectations,” adds a wholesaler from southern Italy.
“We worked mainly with average quotations, which did not allow a satisfactory economic return for any player of the chain.”
One aspect that the operator is keen to point out is that “in the last 10 years, globally, lime consumption has doubled. For this year, however, there could be a decline compared to 2022, with production similar to last year. Generally, lime consumption in Italy is linked to the weather: summer is therefore the season where the peak is recorded.”
South Africa: Limes hard to sell
Limes are grown in the northeastern part of South Africa, oftentimes not by the growers of conventional citrus and volumes are a trickle of other citrus categories across the country.
Most buyers of limes at the municipal markets are Mexican restaurants and cocktail bars. Limes play a significant role in Hindi festivals and celebrations, which bolster lime sales at certain periods, particularly in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
At the moment the lime market is slow: 3 kg bags sell for between R10 (0.5 euro) and R30 (1.5 euro) says a municipal market trader who noted limes are a difficult product to sell: “You’re either selling it for R100 [a 3kg bag; 5 euros] or you’re giving it away.
North America: More small fruit and lower prices expected
Going into Easter week, there are limited supplies of limes. “Holy Week in Mexico shuts everything down for the week to let their staff celebrate and spend time with their families,” says one shipper. He notes that lime supplies are about the same as this time last year.
This comes at a time when Mexico is at the beginning of its crop which means there’s more small fruit available. “After Easter when everyone returns to harvesting and packing, we expect more supplies,” says the shipper.
“This will bring cheaper prices on small fruit and the lack of bigger sizes will hold those prices a little higher. However, those are cheaper prices overall than we’ve been seeing in the last month.”
In Mexico, supplies are coming from Veracruz but also Jalisco. Persian lime and Key lime (known as Mexican lime, which is smaller and a sweeter fruit used in pies) harvesting started in Jalisco and many other production areas of Mexico last month with good volumes and availability.
As for demand, it is good on the bigger sizes given the lack of supply. “Small sizes are moving a little slower because of the heavier volume that’s available from everyone and more competitive prices,” he says.
He notes that the warmer days being seen in California have been helping consumption. “We’re going to need that demand with the type of volume to come on 230s/250s,” he adds.
So what lies ahead for Mexican limes? “More small fruit and cheaper prices,” he adds.
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Brazil: Unstable prices, hopes for a good summer in Europe
Limes from Brazil recently had challenges selling in the UK, France and Spain. An exporter commented: “After some difficult months the market is improving and the forecast its good with summer arriving soon in Europe.”
The Brazilian limes’ high season in Europe is coming with increasing orders and higher prices expected. Brazil has limes all year round with producers reportedly standing ready to take orders, however, they say they need more financial assurance from importers.
An exporter commented: “With the prices we see now, Brazil will raise the volumes, more from São Paulo, where there is the biggest lime production in terms of volumes in Brazil. But the demand, as the summer is arriving in Europe, should be there. I hope for a good summer because in December/January/February the entire industry lost a lot of money.”
The local market consumption of limes is extremely high in Brazil and Mexico. Brazilian exporters say the United States also has very good lime consumption.
In Europe, its consumption has only been increasing, especially for the Brazilian limes, which have been preferred due to their high juice content.
However, an exporter has warned the limes market can change suddenly. Factors such as the shipping and other costs in the supply chain play a big role in the price a final consumer in Europe and other markets ends up paying. The limes prices are also said to be unstable.
Argentina: Smaller fruit and less production due to drought
Argentina will soon start to export limited volumes of limes this season. Some producers say they are going to complete the lemon shipments with two pallets of limes per container.
Argentina has limes for the local market, where demand is higher than supply with good prices. The worst drought in 94 years in Argentina has also caused some challenges, with smaller fruit and less production.
Colombia: Lime exports almost double in 2022
This country is set on increasing their market share of Tahiti lime in particular in the US. Last year (2022) Colombia’s lime exports, reached an impressive US$81.8M in sales, almost double in comparison to US$49.3M in 2021. They hope to reach even higher sales in 2023.