First there was black gold (think Beverly Hillbilly Jed Clampett singing about oil as 'black gold, Texas tea').
Now it's green gold (think limes and the Harry Nilsson song where his love 'puts the lime in the coconut').
But today, when it comes to green gold, Nilsson's love, nor anyone else, can likely afford to squeeze a lime in a coconut, or a margarita or even homemade guacamole. The only ones who can afford such fun are likely Mexican cartels and militias as they are treating lime sales like a drug trade business.
It all started back in mid-March when the price of limes nearly doubled overnight. It wasn't because farmers were spiking the price. It was a perfect storm of bad weather, both wet and dry, that made for a scarce crop so prices started to rise. Nearly all the limes in the U.S. are bought from Mexico's Michoacan region, home to the infamous Knights Templar gang. They started hijacking trucks and demanding ransoms from growers. The government and armed militia got involved and the situation didn't get any better for lime lovers.
A case of limes that sold for $20 a year ago now cost $100. And the price keeps climbing.
"This is something we've never seen for any fruit or vegetable," said a buyer for Hardie's Fruit and Vegetable Co. in Dallas in late March.
Now limes are at a three-year high, with little change in sight. The latest news is that the high cost is now keeping limes grounded in the travel industry. The fruit is so expensive now that even major airlines are slicing limes out of beverage service.
One report states Alaska Airlines cut limes out two weeks ago on flights. As the airline uses nearly a 1,000 limes a day in beverage service, the operational cost savings is substantial. United Airlines is only stocking 15 percent to 20 percent of its usual lime pile.
Restaurants and bars nationwide are taking similar stances, pulling them out garnish trays and substituting with a cousin fruit where possible.
"Real simple," said John Berry, who runs La Fonda restaurant in San Antonio. "We don't buy them. We substitute lemons."