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Lime Shortage Takes Zest Away From Bars, Planes

MINNEAPOLIS -- A bad harvest year in Mexico has caused the price of limes to go way up.

Lucas Price is a bartender at Barrio in downtown Minneapolis, a place known for its tacos and tequila. But lately, it's a little green fruit that's been putting the squeeze on Price.

"For the consumer, it's going to be the same price. But it's just taking a hit for the restaurants," Price said.

Mexico supplies about 96 percent of the limes imported to the United States. But bad weather, a bad harvest and unrest caused by drug cartels have cut down the lime supply, causing prices to sour.

In the span of three months, a box of limes has gone from about $20 to more than $100. It's an increase that's a little harder to swallow on Wednesday, which is National Gin and Tonic Day.

In fact, if you're flying soon, you may not find any limes in your drink at all. A spokesman for United Airlines said they're flying with only about 15 percent of their usual stock of limes.

Alaska Airlines cut limes from their cocktails altogether. They're now serving lemons instead.

While consumers pay to add zest to their dinner, Barrio uses limes for drinks and every taco they serve. Instead of charging more, they'll tough it out until prices go down. They'll just ask customers for a little more patience.

"We're cutting them more to order instead of having them on reserve," Price said. "So sometimes it's going to take a little bit longer to get a drink."

Limes have become such a commodity in Mexico that there have been reports of lime growers being robbed at gunpoint.

Luckily, experts say lime prices are expected to go back to normal in about six weeks.

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