Colombian limes find opportunity as Mexico winds down

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Colombian limes find opportunity as Mexico winds down

Exporters of Colombian limes are working to take advantage of the January-April window when supplies from Mexico to the United States drop. 

Jose Manuel Villacis, senior vice president for Latin America for Exp. Group LLC, says this is a time for Colombia to stand out by sending its best-quality lime to the U.S. market. 

“Mexico dominates the U.S. lime market,” Villacis told “Once Mexico’s season starts, all other origins disappear because their production volumes are so high that no one can compete.”

Mexico represents 95% of all limes arriving in the U.S., Villacis explained. The other 5% is mainly covered by Colombia and to a smaller extent, Peru. 

In 2023, Mexico supplied 94.5% of U.S. lime imports.

Colombia’s potential for growth

Villacis says Colombia is currently providing very high-quality limes, and he believes they still have a lot of room to grow. Once large volumes from Mexico return, however, he expects prices to drop considerably.

“The issue is that when you increase production volumes too much, prices drop,” Villacis said. “During Colombia’s export season, prices are at around $30 to $38 per box of limes. When Mexico is in season and volumes are much higher, a box of limes ranges between $18 and $20.” 

This difference in profit, he said, might explain why the current volume of exports from Colombia is convenient for producers. 

“Colombia’s product is great, with good juice concentration, which explains why it is highly demanded,” Villacis added .“It will slowly gain more and more space within the U.S. market.” 

When Colombia is not sending fruit to the U.S., their volumes are directed to the European market, where they compete with origins like Brazil and Mexico, as well. 

Lime consumption in the U.S.

Despite the current high prices of the fruit, which is good news for exporters and retailers, Villacis says supply in the market is normal.

“We are happy because we see there is a demand to cover, and the offer is limited, which means there is space for all the fruit that is still to come in through our ports,” says Villacis. 

The demographic shift in the U.S. has helped increase the consumption of Latin American products in the country. Latinos are one of the fastest-growing demographics in the United States. The U.S. Latino population grew 26% between 2010 and 2022, nearing 64 million people.  

“Latin cuisine, especially in northern countries, uses limes for many preparations, for example, guacamole, tacos, or ceviches, which is why demand for the fruit has increased in the last couple of years,” Villacis said. 

Villaci’s company alone is shipping between five and six lime containers from Colombia per week, he said. 

He adds that Colombia’s total volume to the U.S. this season will reach around 2 million boxes of limes. He estimated Mexico could reach 35 million boxes by the end of its season. 

In 2023, Mexico exported just under 1.1 million pounds of limes to the U.S., while Colombian exports reached 86,815 pounds.

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