Is the lime market a gamble? That is the thought-provoking question with which Fruit Market International's (FMI) Peter Bouman opened his presentation at the Global Tropicals Congress. After all, in the lime market, you can sometimes make quick money but lose it just as fast.
FMI is the European Union's largest independent lime importer. In his presentation, Peter outlined how the European import market doubled from 4,000 to 8,000 containers annually between 2012 and 2022. Brazil is the main EU supplier. In fact, between 2012 and 2022, its share grew from 58% to 75%.
Mexican limes' share fell from 35 to 9%. Last year, Colombia, too, overtook Mexico. Peter expects Brazil to remain the largest supplier. "Spain also grows limes, and we offer them, too. But as long as that country doesn't have the tropical climate to grow year-round, Europe will keep wanting overseas limes," he says.
According to Peter, lime's increased consumption comes down to using it more in cocktails, modern cooking, and juices. The importer points out how fragmented the lime market is; it still has many smaller producers. "Even large exporters need those small players to fill their containers and programs. We also want to continue doing business with these smaller growers. Otherwise, the big ones only get richer and the poor poorer."
Lime market prices fluctuate wildly, so importers and exporters are always looking for a way to make a buck when the market is expensive. Peter, however, calls retailers' tendency to reach long-term price agreements through tenders a dangerous development. "That's exactly what makes the lime market a gamble," he says.
Peter and Rene Bouman of FMI with the the Orsero Group's Donisis Spathis.
Aside from the logistical disruptions, Bouman dares criticize another aspect: criminality. "There are dishonest people who misuse the lime market. We're experiencing the fallout of that. While I understand that the containers have to be scanned, these shouldn't have to stay in the port of Rotterdam for a few days for that."
FMI fully focuses on using data analyses to make the correct importing decisions. "We believe in specialism and good chain cooperation. Because no matter how you look at it, the fruit business is and always will be a people business. And if you can establish good chain partnerships, the lime market won't be a gamble but a fantastic market in which to work," Peter concludes.