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The Soaring Price of Limes Means Trouble: Are Asian Bugs and Climate Change the Culprits?

The average price of limes has shot up from 23 cents to over a dollar -- here's why.

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A climate-changed dinner plate

People carrying curry and orange leaves also make grand transporters of the citrus killer. Cyclones and hurricanes do a fine job of moving the louses about, too.

As a consequence, HLB is now ripping through lime groves in Mexico and much of Latin America. California is probably next. Tellingly, the first outbreak in Florida appeared behind a Thai restaurant; the first outbreak in California behind a Chinese restaurant.

The United Nations sums up the voracious impact of HLB with uncharacteristic bluntness: "Reduced citrus production resulting in both lower incomes and less food available."

Meanwhile, the scientific literature reads like dark science fiction. In 2012, U.S. scientists  wrotethat "solutions to HLB are needed desperately and must be implemented soon to ensure the sustainability of commercial citrus."

The scientists also concluded that temperature and climate "are among the main contributing factors associated with pest dispersion."

The Chipotle Mexican Grill restaurant chain came to the same unpopular conclusion.

The guacamole maker recently  warned its distracted diners that, "Increasing weather volatility or other long-term changes in global weather patterns, including any changes associated with global climate change, could have a significant impact on the price or availability of some of our ingredients."

It concluded, "Climate change effects on agriculture will have consequences for food security, both in the U.S. and globally, through changes in crop yields and food prices and effects on food processing, storage, transportation, and retailing."This week, the U.S. Global Change Research Program issued the same direct warning.

Given that the United States now imports 13 per cent of its grains, 20 per cent of its vegetables (much higher in winter months), almost 40 per cent of its fruit, 85 per cent of its fish and shellfish, and all tropical goods such as coffee, tea and bananas, "climate extremes in regions that supply these products to the U.S. can cause sharp reductions in production and increases in prices."

The same applies to Canada, where an oil-infused government appears systematically indifferent to climate change.

A sour message

Nevertheless, the dying lime trees are sending us a message, and it's not a tweet.

This citrus communication, something profound, meaningful and earth-bound, says that the rational economic men in suits who promised us more prosperity and stability with globalization lied about a future they could never forecast.

As a result, our daily lives have become less secure, more volatile and increasingly unequal.

As a metaphor for the uncharted waters of globalization, the lime foretells a new chronicle in which we can all expect more surprises, shortages and economic gangsterism for dinner.

And what next after the lime? 

Andrew Nikiforuk is a contributing editor to the Tyee. He is also the author of Pandemonium, a clear-eyed guide to the instability wrought by the hidden biological terrorists planted by global trade.

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