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Once Upon A Lime

Limes – a cocktail garnish, a tequila chaser, and a guacamole staple. Limes are a key ingredient in so many things that we enjoy, yet we take them for granted because they never seem to be in short supply. This past year Americans have seen them disappearing from their coronas, the once-green juicy gems on supermarket shelves have been replaced by browning-green dry fruit, and the price to purchase a case of limes has nearly quadrupled.

The lime shortage was initially sparked by a bacterial disease called huanglongbing (HLB), which wiped out a significant number of lime trees in Mexico, the largest lime supplier in the world, where 90% of America’s limes are sourced. In December following the HLB outbreak, severe weather conditions resulted in lousy crops. But restaurant owners and Margharitaville are not the only ones suffering the blow from the limepocalypse. With the supply of limes diminishing and the demand being higher than ever, the little citrus fruits have become green gold – their value making them a new target for drug cartels like the Knights Templar in Michoacan, Mexico’s largest lime producing region.

Drug cartels have been hijacking lime shipments – blocking roads and requiring a payment from the farmers to pass. Those extra costs are seen in the inflated lime prices for American consumers. Gangs have begun to monopolize the lime trade by taking over farms, killing farmers, and driving crop owners out of their homes.

The lime shortage highlights how closely the economies of Mexico and the US are intertwined and how violence south of the Rio Grande can have an impact on American consumers. So the next time you see a lime in your gin and tonic, stare at it, savor it, and take a moment to think about what it took to put that lime in your glass.

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