Global lime shortage squeezes Queens bars, restaurants


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photos by Sophia Rosenbaum
THE COURIER/Photos by Sophia Rosenbaum

A lime shortage has increased prices and forced local establishments to limit its use.

SOPHIA ROSENBAUM

Brother, can you spare a lime?

Frequent customers at El Rey Del Taco truck may be confused when they open the Styrofoam container with their tacos to find a wedge of lemon, instead of lime, in their trays.

Limes are too expensive for the taco truck to afford right now, as a global lime shortage is affecting restaurants and bars throughout Queens. Most of the limes used in the U.S. come from Mexico, where heavy rains and an infectious tree disease affecting the lime crop have forced lime prices to quadruple over the past few months.

“Unfortunately, Mexico received some heavy rains that destroyed a large amount of the lime crop, so with limited supplies, we are seeing lime prices skyrocket,” said Lindsey Pope, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Agriculture.

At local supermarkets like Key Food and Trade Fair, three limes cost $3. Three months ago, customers could buy a dozen limes for the same price. In the past few months, prices for 10-pound cases of limes have gone from about $30 to about $120.

While the taco truck can get away with replacing limes with lemons, some businesses are not afforded that option.

“We do a lot of custom cocktails, so not using fresh juice just isn’t an option for us,” said Vincent Vee, the beer and event manager at Station House in Forest Hills.

Vee said it’s common for prices of fresh fruit to fluctuate, especially when natural disasters like droughts affect Mexico, but that this lime shortage has been especially long.

“[The prices are] staying up a little longer than normal this time,” he said. “We’re hoping they come down soon.”

Like other restaurants and bars, Station House is limiting its lime garnishes and ensuring that its employees use the limes in the most efficient way possible.

Limes are an integral part of many Mexican dishes. Fresh lime juice makes up a third of most traditional margarita recipes.

Mojave, a Mexican restaurant in Astoria, is trying to limit its use of limes to the bare minimum.

“We’re just trying to compensate,” said Maya Stephanov, a bartender at Mojave.

Stephanov said that limes are a staple at almost every bar in the city, as a slice of lime is often paired with vodka cranberries, gin and tonics and other specialty drinks.

 

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