Lime shortage hits Manhattan

One Manhattan chef says the cost of limes is up three-fold.

Heavy rains and bacterial disease have decimated this year’s lime crops, causing an unprecedented shortage and a drastic increase in price. But what does that mean to the average New Yorker?

Well, you may find your happy hour margarita has suddenly doubled in price, or that the guacamole at your favorite restaurant has lemon juice instead of lime in it.  

Huanglongbing, or “greening disease” has devastated citrus crops in Florida, Central America and South America in the last few years, then heavy rains this winter wiped out massive amounts of blossoms and destroyed trees. The price of limes shot up, going from 21 cents for a single fruit last year to 53 cents this year, earning the nickname, “green gold.” To make matters worse, organized crime groups in Mexico have been stealing entire truckloads of the fruit.

The increased price is forcing many chefs to face tough choices – alter recipes, make substitutions or raise prices. Chef Michael Armstrong of Bodega Negra in the Meatpacking District says they are not raising prices or substituting lemons, thankfully.

“We find it best to maintain consistency and ride it out until the prices ease up,” he said in an email. But the restaurant is riding out the trying times at a cost.

“In order to maintain our level of quality, we’ve been paying a premium. Prices are higher than they’ve ever been. Last week we spent triple what we normally do for a case.”  

Marie Spinal, 42, of the Bronx said the lime crisis will definitely affect her choices.

“I’ll be eating less Mexican food,” she said.

How long this shortage will last is uncertain, at least until the next harvest begins in May.

Corinne Thomas, 21, of City Island in the Bronx, said she doesn’t think the shortage will affect her too much.

“Even now the drinks are really expensive when you go out,” she said.

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