Bad weather in Mexico is being blamed for a recent spike in the price of limes across Canada and the United States, where some supermarkets are now charging more than a dollar for a single lime -- almost triple what customers are used to paying.

But some importers say there is another element at play: Mexican drug cartels.

“The reality is that there is a criminal element in Mexico,” Raul Millan, the vice-president of Vision Import Group, told CTV’s Canada AM on Thursday. “What’s happening is that there have been containers that have been stolen. So some growers have had to incur other costs to protect their loads: They send their trucks with armed guards, they send a couple of cars that follow the truck for protection.”

Millan says that trucks destined for the U.S. from Mexican lime-producing regions like Veracruz and Michoacán can carry upwards of $100,000 worth of limes, making them prime targets for thieves.

But drug cartels are only part of the problem, Millan says.

Rain, wind and cold weather in December and January has killed blooming lime tree flowers in many regions, Millan says, resulting in a low volume of the fruit being harvested.

He says, in the U.S., a 40 pound box of limes is now selling for about $100, and that could go up by another $10 by Monday. Millan says he typically pays between $25 and $40 a box at this time of year.

But he says some Canadians won’t be hit as hard as Americans, as importers to this country have been receiving shipments of limes from Brazil. Millan cautions, however, that he trade-off for lower prices is lower quality.

“The Brazil lime is not the optimum lime, it is not as green as the Mexico lime, it’s not as juicy, it’s not what retailers or food service customers would prefer,” he said, adding that Canadian importers are paying about $60 for a box of Brazilian limes.

Millan says he expects prices on Mexican limes to remain as they are until the end of May, when he expects production to increase.