Bummer de Mayo: Mexican Drug Cartels Causing Lime Shortage in U.S.

Lime Shortage Worsens Thanks to Drug Cartels in Mexico
Limes used for garnishes at El Coyote, a Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles
AP

updated 05/05/2014 AT 06:00 PM EDT

originally published 05/05/2014 AT 12:20 PM EDT

If you've gotten a lemon in your gin and tonic recently, or – God forbid – in your Corona this Cinco de Mayo, you've got a larger target to blame than an inattentive bartender.

You should take it up with Mexican drug cartels.

"Most people in the U.S. don't realize how highly dependent we are on Mexico for certain products ... The bad things happening in Mexico do have an impact on U.S. consumers and U.S. exporters," David Shirk, a security specialist at the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told CNN Money.

To clarify: Mexico is the world's largest exporter of limes, and it exports a huge chunk of the limes that the U.S. consumes. You may have noticed that the price of the citrus fruits has gone up in stores; the price of a case has more than quadrupled recently. Much of this has to do with severe winter weather and drought conditions in Mexico, but it's not helped by the stranglehold certain drug organizations have on parts of Mexico.



In fact, one in particular is causing most of the problems: The Knights Templar, based in the lime-producing region of Michoacán. Cartel members exact cuts of orchard owners' shipments and threaten them with damage to their farms or violence if their demands aren't met.

And it's not just the lime industry set to suffer: Cartels have begun muscling into the country's avocado industry as well, so expect your guacamole to get a little saltier in the coming months (in price, not taste).

Shirk says the cartels couldn't care less about which industries they're disrupting; it's all just money to them.

"I don't think organized crime groups care about limes at all. They care about making a profit," says Shirk. The larger point: "Mexico's economic and security problems are our own."

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