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Mexican limes Mexican limes for sale at 98 pesos per kilo in Tijuana.

Taco prices rise as cost of limes is up 153% in one year

Organized crime's extortion demands have disrupted production in lime-producing states

High lime prices are hitting the pockets of Mexican consumers by bumping the cost of tacos. The price of the citrus fruit has skyrocketed 153% in annual terms, according to the Economy Ministry.

In Mexico City’s Central Wholesale Market a kilogram of lime costs 65 pesos (US $3.15), but in supermarkets in the north and center of the country a kilogram costs up to 120 pesos ($5.81), the newspaper El País reported.

The fall in nationwide production of the citrus fruit is one of the causal factors: production dropped 4% in December compared to the same month in 2020, the Agriculture Ministry said. That meant 12,280 fewer tonnes went to market. In Michoacán, which provides 28% of national production, the yield for December 2021 was down 48% in annual terms.

Adán Flores, a taco vendor in the Mexico City borough of Cuauhtémoc, said he opted to raise the price of tacos, rather than limit the limes available to customers, and bumped the price of the suadero taco from 12-15 pesos.

Luis Saucedo, a regular customer at the El Chupacabras taquería in Coyoacán in the south of Mexico City, said the lower lime supply had affected his plate directly. “Before they had a clay pot with ready sliced limes, from which each customer could help themself. Now they only give you a quarter lime for each taco,” he said.

Chicharrónes & Carnitas Don Nacho went viral for advertising a tongue-in-cheek deal: two limes for 70 pesos.
Chicharrónes & Carnitas Don Nacho went viral for advertising a tongue-in-cheek deal: buy two limes for 70 pesos and get a quarter-kilo of carnitas free.

One restaurant owner in Hidalgo had an ironic offer for customers: buy two limes for 70 pesos and get a quarter kilogram of carnitas, or braised pork, at no charge.

However, an economics researcher at the National Autonomous University (UNAM), David Lozano, said that while adverse weather had affected the yield, organized crime was also disrupting supply. “In Colima and Michoacán, the two main producing states, in addition to the effects of frost and climate change, there is the interference of organized crime where farmers cannot distribute the product easily,” he said.

Lime producers in Michoacán said extortion was pushing up prices and dissuading growers. They said criminals demand money from lime harvesters, “from the land owners, from the packers, from the transporters. At each stage the price of lime rises to be able to pay the criminals, that is why many [growers] decided not to produce,” they said.

Harassment by cartels has caused dozens of hectares of lime in Tepalcatepec, Aguililla, Buenavista Tomatlán and Apatzingán to be abandoned by producers, the newspaper Reforma reported.

But lime isn’t the only product that’s getting pricier. Costs have risen more widely: inflation in 2021 soared to 7.36%, the highest level in 21 years. Lozano added that the price of limes could remain high in February and March.

The head of the consumer protection agency Profeco, Ricardo Sheffield, said on January 17 that while lime costs had risen, other groceries had gotten cheaper. “While it’s true that the lime has gone up, it is also true that the serrano chile has gone down and the saladette tomato has fallen. These products have compensated for … the increase in lime,” he said.

President López Obrador, returning from a COVID-19 forced absence, said on January 17 that he used less lime than usual in his curative hot drink while feeling under the weather due to the high price.

With reports from El País, Reforma and El Heraldo de México

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