Bay Area Restaurants Adapt to Soaring Lime Prices

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area's Jodi Hernandez shows why some people are blaming Mexican cartels for the surge in lime prices. (Published Wednesday, Apr 9, 2014)

    It's a bitter reality for the Bay Area. Local restaurants and bars are rethinking entrees and cocktails because of a severe shortage of limes.

    Produce wholesalers say that the price of limes has shot up by a whopping 800 percent this year, turning them into gold.

    “Lime prices within the last three months have gone from $16 a box to as high as $120-$130 a box,” said Bill Pevler of Coosemans, a produce distributer in San Francisco. “I’ve been in the business for 32 years and have never seen it this high.”

    Pevler said that initially people were blaming the high prices on the drought, but now growers and shippers are attributing it to Mexican drug cartels.

    “They were hijacking semis down in Mexico, taking everything,” Pevler said. “If you didn't follow what they wanted you to do, they shot you and they killed you.”

    The high price of limes has been too much for some Bay Area restaurants to handle.

    Homestead restaurant in Oakland has stopped using the citrus, opting instead for oranges and other fruit.

    “We have been getting email reports from our purveyors saying many of these local farms in Mexico are being held up by cartels,” said Homestead owner Fred Sassen. “The best thing we can do at this restaurant is to avoid using them and come up with creative solutions."

    With Cinco de Mayo just around the corner, some restaurants are considering putting a twist on the classic margarita, or they might just start charging more for that tangy taste.

    “Liquor will now be cheaper than limes,” joked Pevler.