Lime is an important crop for Mexican growers, as it is the second most produced citrus in the country. Mexicans have been growing and consuming limes for centuries, and the fruit has become an essential part of the country’s cuisine. From traditional dishes like ceviche to more contemporary creations like lime-infused cocktails, limes add a refreshing zing that is loved by many. Not only are limes a vital part of Mexican culture, but they are also big business.
Mexico produces a significant volume of limes that hugely contributes to the world trade of the produce. It is the world’s second-largest producer of lime, representing 13.5% of the global lime production. (p. 10)
The Latin American country’s huge contribution to the lime world trade is because it has the second biggest harvest area for limes globally, taking up 15% of the world’s lime harvest land. (p. 12) This brings Mexico’s production to 2,851,427 tons of limes in 2020, its largest volume of production in the last four decades. (p. 23-24)
Read on to know more about Mexico’s lime production and trade.
Mexican Lime Production: An Overview
Lime production in Mexico has been consistently increasing. The average annual increase in lime production in Mexico between 2011-2020 was 4.3% (p. 24)
Mexico’s lime production yield in 2020 was also 81% higher than its volumes two decades ago. This increase is attributable to Mexico’s consistently increasing lime harvest area, which had an average growth of 2.7% from 2012 to 2020. (p. 25)
The value of lime production in Mexico also showed a consistent climb. Mexican lime reached 18,766 million pesos in 2020, an 8.8% increase from 17,256 million pesos in 2019. This was attributable to the rise in price per ton of limes, which reached USD 6,581 in 2020. (p. 27)
In some Mexican states, the production value of limes is even higher. Nuevo León has the highest price per ton of limes at USD 10,326, which Michoacán follows with USD 8,942 per ton.
Lime seasons and producing states in Mexico
Lime production in Mexico reaches its first peak between July and August. This accounts for 22% of the total lime production in Mexico for the year. The highest production peak takes place between October and November, accounting for 24% of the total lime production in Mexico for the year.
There are 28 Mexican states that produce lime. The six leading states that produce more than 100,000 tons are: Michoacán, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Colima, Tamaulipas,and Jalisco.
But Michoacán and Veracruz significantly lead in lime production volumes, with 798,252 tons and 788,555 tons, respectively. Oaxaca follows suit as a far third with 281,559 tons in production. (p. 28)
Michoacán has the largest lime harvest area in the country, with 50,530 hectares, taking up 27.3% of the total lime harvest area in Mexico. But in terms of average yield, San Luis Potosí leads with 26.0 tons per hectare, exceeding the national average yield of 15.4 tons per hectare by 68.8%. (p. 28)
Lime production in Mexico is done completely in the open field. This is because trees in a lime orchard can easily reach heights of 4.5 to 6.0 meters, making it difficult to produce them under a protective structure. Cost concerns also limit Mexican lime growers from conducting other means of lime cultivation. (p. 31)
Mexican lime Exports and Imports
As one of the world’s leading producers of fresh limes, Mexico plays a significant role in supplying this juicy fruit to international markets. In fact, Mexico is the top lime exporter in the world. In 2019, its exports totaled 766,013 tons, representing 20.9% of the total world lime exports. (p. 20) This equates to USD 567 million in value for Mexican lime growers.
The biggest buyer of Mexican limes is the US, which is the top lime exporter in the world. Around 95% of Mexican limes for export go to the US, and Mexico’s export of limes to the US is also considered the biggest lime trade flow in the world. (p. 21)
In 2019, US’ imports of Mexican limes translated into 687,266 tons of limes, taking up 20% of the global lime trade. This transaction is equal to a value of USD 543 million.
Other countries that buy Mexican limes are: the Netherlands, the UK, France, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Ireland. Mexico also imports a minimal volume of limes from other regions including from the US and Argentina. In the period between January to August 2021, Mexico imported a total of 4,736 tons of lines from these two countries, with 62.7% of the total limes coming from the US. (p. 42)
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Lime Analysis 2021