The new avocado? New Zealand limes top $75 per kilo in some supermarkets

Luke Appleby
Source: 1News

Kiwi limes are selling for more than $75 per kilo in some supermarkets, with one grower saying it's the highest price he's ever seen.

New Zealand Reddit user izzabiz posted a photo yesterday of limes on sale at a New World supermarket for $75.99 per kilo, writing that prices are "out of control".

At that price, with an average lime weighing somewhere between 130-140 grams, you'd get about seven limes in a kilo - at a cost of more than $10 per fruit.

Today in Auckland, New World Victoria Park was selling USA limes for $50 per kilo. Online, the price was $59.90 per kilo, and $50 per kilo at Countdown.

Antoinette Laird, spokesperson for Foodstuffs, which owns the New World brand, says limes are much more scarce this season than in previous years.

"Lime harvest season in New Zealand is in March, so to make sure our customers have the option of fresh limes we import them at this time of year," Ms Laird said.

"Fresh limes are currently in short supply globally, mainly due to high levels of rain resulting in lower yields than usual - this makes fresh limes more expensive to bring in than in previous years when the harvest has been more plentiful."

The New Zealand lime season runs from about March to July, but some producers have been able to extend their season by growing indoors, in pots, or under glass.

Lime grower Greg McCartney of Lime Affair says $75.99 per kilo is the highest consumer price he's ever seen, and that the wholesale price at the moment is sitting around $44 per kilo.

Imported USA limes on sale at a New World supermarket in Auckland for $49.99 per kilo in January 2020.

During the peak season, limes typically sell for between $3-$4 per kilo, but the January and February months typically bring much higher prices because Kiwis love eating - and drinking - limes around Christmas time.

"This time of year we have very few limes," Mr McCartney said. "You'll pick one off one tree and then walk another five metres and pick another - so they're pretty sparse.

"It happens every year - it's sort of like the avocado scene, when there's not much around the prices jump - there's a supply and demand."

His current price for a kilo of limes is about $30 plus GST.

Mr McCartney said imported limes could in some cases be priced higher because importers and retailers were taking a risk by importing it.

The fruit could be delayed in shipping, or it could fail to sell in time and either rot, or ripen to a yellow colour - consumers today tend to want nice, fresh, and especially green limes to put in their food and drink.

Limes are usually picked and sold while green, but tend to become less desirable to consumers as they turn yellow - despite this being their natural colour when fully ripe.

He said restaurants and bars typically buy most of his limes.

"The bars scream for them just before Christmas, because of all the parties and mojitos are flowing," Mr McCartney said.

"This time of year, a lot of the bars cut right down because they're not as busy - a lot of people are still out of town and still on holiday.

"So the importers know that, and they'll bring a container in at the start of December or something and as soon as it's sold they won't bring anymore in over this period, and it creates that shortage."

Mr McCartney said the high prices can be expected to last a couple of months or so.

"Late February, you normally get some early Australian [limes] in, and then from March on, our New Zealand stuff comes in."

He said a lot of bars now use limes for things like putting a wedge in the neck of certain beers - because there was now a perception that a simple lemon wasn't good enough anymore.

"Everybody's got quite precious - you go and buy a Corona and you want a lime in it now, like, a lemon won't do," Mr McCartney said.

Lime juice, on the other hand, is a much cheaper alternative, with Mr McCartney selling a litre of New Zealand juice for about $15.

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