A lemon shortage has caused lemon prices in Australia to increase more than 300%, making the sneaky little citrus fruits more expensive than mangoes, pineapples, chicken fillets, and beef burgers.
It’s a classic citrus shock: Bad weather led to a shriveled citrus supply this season, forcing citrus-mongers to spike their prices and import the little puckers from abroad to meet demand.
A bitter business
Normally, lemons cost about $4 per kilogram in Australia. But a heat wave last year stunted the season’s crop, reducing domestic supply.
As a result, everyone from little kids at lemonade stands to restaurateurs started relying on lemons imported all the way from the US — paying as much as $13 per kilogram for the little yellow fellas.
Sometimes weather still wins
Farmers rely on stockpiled produce, international trade relationships, and hydroponic growing operations to keep produce supplies consistent.
But despite these efforts to prevent produce panics, bad weather sometimes still leaves producers with no other choice than importing fruit from across the globe.
In places like Australia that are relatively geographically isolated, price spikes are even more common: Just last year, an Australian avocado shortage caused prices to spike 4x, raising the price of a single avo to $9.
Fun fact: The Mafia has its roots in citrus shortages
Throughout history, many fortunes have been won and lost due to agricultural volatility. ‘Citrus shocks’ in particular have played a surprisingly juicy role in history.
According to many scholars, elevated lemon prices in 19th-century Italy were a primary reason the Mafia first gained power, since lemon growers needed ‘muscle’ to protect their tart-tasting treasures (to this day, the Italian Mafia owns around $23B in agricultural holdings).