American Lime Consumption Has Doubled Since 1999, Risen 20-Fold Since 1970

America's Taste For Limes Is Shockingly New

There's a great story about recent trends in American lime consumption in today's LA Times. The story focuses on the different types of limes eaten around the world, from the familiar Persian lime to the exotic finger lime, and it does a great job highlighting the few intrepid California farmers who are holding down the tiny fort of the domestic lime market. It's so small that the USDA doesn't even monitor its size anymore. But buried in the relatively long article are some truly eye-opening statistics about lime consumption in America:

While per capita consumption of citrus overall declined 24% from 1999 to 2009, consumption of limes more than doubled, from 1.55 to 3.61 pounds, according to Department of Agriculture statistics.

That would mean that we now eat more than twice as many limes as we did just 10 years ago! HuffPost Food was flabbergasted; limes now seem like an integral part of the supermarket and restaurant landscape... could it really be true that their omnipresence is a new phenomenon?

In short, yes. The Times' USDA statistics on per capita lime production and consumption show that Americans eat far, far more limes than they did just a few decade ago. In 1970, the average American ate just .3 pounds of limes -- one twentieth what they ate in 2009.

What's changed? Part of the disparity can probably be ascribed to demographic shifts. A larger percentage Americans are of Hispanic and Asian heritage now than they were in the United States of 40 years ago, so a larger proportion of people living in the country have culinary backgrounds well-suited to the use of limes. And the eating preferences of all Americans have become far more adventurous in that time, for a whole host of reasons.

But the demand side of the equation only goes so far in answering the question. The rest is only comprehensible when you look at changes in the supply of imported limes on American soil. A USDA report on the North American Free Trade Agreement, indeed, shows that a significant of the increase in lime consumption in America can be attributed to lower tariffs on limes imported to America from Mexico. The report concludes "Lime imports continue to increase, following a trend that was well established before NAFTA. Imports of Mexican limes have continued to increase under NAFTA. Between 1993 and 2000, they increased 74 percent to 179,002 metric tons in 2000."

That means that, even if anti-globalizations activists have a lot of strong arguments on their side, they have to overcome the deliciousness of ceviche and daiquiris if they want the full support of HuffPost Food.

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