The Signal

Serving the College since 1885

Sunday September 25th

The Lime Correspondent: The fate of the American lime industry

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By Patrick Gallagher

Currently, North America is suffering from one of the greatest lime shortages in recorded history, due to a number of reasons already mentioned in previous articles. These reasons, may they be disease or organized crime, are prevalent mostly in Mexico, the nation that exports the majority of limes consumed by Americans. While today we rely on Mexico for the majority of our limes, there was a time when the United States produced its own limes, and had an industry of its own.

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, there was a booming lime business in Homestead, Fla., a major agricultural hub in southern Florida. The hot, humid weather made for the perfect conditions to grow limes, which are, of all citrus, the most susceptible to the cold. Florida today is known for its oranges, but 60 years ago, a great number of limes were grown there. This successful boom of limes caused the American appetite for the citrus to amplify. Combined with an influx of immigrants from Latin America, whose cuisines make ample use of the fruit. As the demand for the fruit grew, the supply could not keep up.

In 1992, Hurricane Andrew ripped its way through Florida, and caused much devastation. Among many other things, the lime orchards in Florida were torn apart and had to be replanted. During this time, lime production in Mexico stepped up to meet American demand, and a vacuum was created. American-grown limes would have made a comeback as orchards were re-grown after Andrew, but disease spread throughout Florida, killing citrus trees off. Lime trees were not to be grown in order to contain the spreading of citrus canker, a devastating disease to citrus. Farmers have since then gone on to other crops, unable to risk another loss of trees due to disease, and unable to compete with cheaper Mexican labor.

But now that Mexico is hit by hard lime-times, is this the moment for the American lime industry to resurge? Much citrus disease is already affecting Florida orange groves, and most of the climate in the United States is not conducive to growing limes. There is potential of growing them in Hawaii, but the import costs would not be worth it. However, scientists are starting to think that the damage done by disease years ago can be reversed, and new strains of citrus can emerge resistant. The fate of the citrus industry in general relies on such research, as places such as Mexico have become affected by disease.

Over the semester, I have done research to inform not just the TCNJ community, but all readers of this blog, about the impact that limes have on the world. This started as a humble student blogging about his favorite fruit, but it has turned into something much more than that. As I started writing these articles, a sudden lime shortage occurred. When this news arose, I knew to do my best to spread this knowledge to my peers. I want to thank you, the readers, for staying informed about the current state of limes in the world. I hope you learned a few new things, and have a newfound appreciation for this citrus.


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