Why Lemons Are So Expensive This Summer

published Aug 14, 2018
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(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Ring the alarm! There is a lemon shortage in the United States — just in time for peak lemonade season (of course). While this timing is devastating on so many levels, I am primarily upset because I just learned this ingenious stand mixer lemon-juicing hack. Looks like I’ll have to stock up on Country Time mix instead.

If you are unwilling to trade in a bag of lemons for a carton of sugar, fructose, citric acid, and yellow 5 lake, be ready to shell out the big bucks for the real deal.

Why Lemon Prices Are Nearly Double This Summer

Supermarkets across the country have resorted to marking up lemons to nearly double their usual price and, according to the most recent Produce Alliance Weekly Market Review, here’s why: Extreme heat in California (where most American lemons are grown) resulted in early ripening of this year’s domestic lemon crop as well as a higher percentage of “fallen fruit.” This does not mean that this year’s lemons are lower quality, but simply that there is a very low supply. And when low supply meets high demand, shoppers’ wallets take a hit.

Just how much is this heatwave costing? According to figures from the USDA, a wholesale crate of lemons from California currently costs $60, significantly higher than standard prices this time of year. (For reference, this June, the same sized box sold for $35 to $40.) In addition to the U.S. supply taking a hit, imported lemons are also experiencing a supply slump. This year, there have been fewer arrivals from Argentina and Chile due to extended periods of rain, and fewer shipments from Mexico due to an extremely cold winter, which stunted lemon growth earlier in the season.

Because of the fact that there is “virtually no supply and very standard grade fruit,” the Produce Alliance recommends that produce suppliers “accept flexibility in size and grade as a key to mitigating this situation,” which they don’t anticipate being over until October. So hoard your lemons until then!