Time for Limes: Conventional and Organic Limes from Veracruz, Mexico

Learning about USDA #1 and #2 Quality

by Keith Agoada

Over the last six months our team has been developing conventional and organic limes supplies directly from growers and packers in Veracruz, Mexico. Veracruz is to Persian limes as Michoacán is to Hass avocados.

Veracruz is the cradle of Persian lime production in Mexico, and worldwide. Located on the Caribbean side of Mexico, packing facilities in Veracruz sell their limes all over the world. Veracruz has 12 months of production, however there is a low season from about March to June.

Box of Fresh Limes Veracruz, Mexico
Box of Fresh Limes Veracruz, Mexico

While our main focus is developing organic lime supplies we have started with conventional since that is what is available and it gets us in with the people growing and packing limes.

Getting into new fruits there is always a learning curve. Limes has been no different for us. We are learning that one of the key determinants of quality is the color. If there is too much yellow in the fruit it may not be considered a USDA #1, and thus may have to be discounted by the buyer in the US. This is exactly what happened to us on the second shipment we made to New York.

Anticipating a drop in production because of an upcoming hurricane to the region, we worked to get a load out to a new client. While the juice was of top quality, the color wasn't ideal and as such, it had to be discounted upon arrival.

This is a common theme in the fresh fruit world. The fruit often times may taste excellent, but if the aesthetics doesn't fit the grade, they will still be discounted on their price paid to the exporter. It's a difficult reality in the 'visual' world we find ourselves in. Over many decades consumers have demanded a beautiful appearance on fruit from their supermarkets, and in return the supermarkets demand this superficial quality from their distributors.

It has led to a situation where we are discounting or in many cases sending fruit to be processed instead of selling it fresh even though the quality is perfect!

Anyone who spends time at farms or with produce knows that much of the fruit that is harvested by growers isn't perfect, and lots of money is lost because of this visual demand. It's all part of the fruit game in the 21st century, and why it's so important to have great secondary markets of processors and domestic buyers. Often times the profits for growers are made in how much money isn't lost in their second grade fruit harvests.