The Limepocalypse — Could help be on the way?

In recent months, a lime shortage tragically marred margaritas, tacos and pho around the country. 

At Tres Jalapeños in South Philadelphia, manager Courtney Crawford said their usually festive Margarita Mondays were tarnished for weeks. Employees made the drinks out of bottled lime juice instead of the real thing, and mixed guacamole with lemons instead of limes.

“It’s a big difference,” she said. 

The Limepocalpyse, which eased recently, was caused by a triple-whammy of bad weather, a citrus disease and cartels hijacking truck shipments. As foreboding as those enemies seem, Philadelphia business owners have a plan that could help avoid lime and other fruit shortages in the future.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Limes, avocados, papayas and other fruits from Mexico come to the Philadelphia region now by truck, which can be both risky and costly.

Fred Sorbello, a board member of Ship Philly First, has been working for nearly a year to launch a weekly ocean shipping route between the Port of Veracruz and Philadelphia to transport fruits, meat and other goods. The city is already a major destination for fruit from Chile.

“I believe if we had an ocean service in place today, the shortage of limes that we’ve experienced would be … lessened,” he said, because “it would be easier to trade limes between Mexico and Philadelphia.”

Supporters of the plan say ships are less likely than trucks to be hijacked by cartels or impacted by bad weather. Ships actually can move some products faster, which deputy trade commissioner Martin Caro said could benefit American and Mexican consumers alike.

“We can get goods from Mexico to the U.S. in a faster time, in a cheaper way, and also to get Pennsylvania products to Mexico in the same kind of terms,” he said. “That is going to translate into more competitive prices.”

Mexican fruit exporters and local importers got together last week in Philadelphia to discuss the shipping route. Sorbello said another meeting is scheduled for July at the Port of Veracruz.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal