Georgia’s 2014 pecans: smaller nuts, bigger price, growing marketGeorgia’s 2014 pecans: smaller nuts, bigger price, growing market
Georgia’s 2014 pecan crop looks to bring 70 million pounds to market. As harvest rolls on, small nut size has been a problem due to tough summer weather, but the weather did help the crop, too.The market is expected to stay strong at least through November because China’s New Year, it’s biggest pecan-consuming time, is later this year.
November 21, 2014
Georgia’s pecan crop this year looks to bring 70 million pounds to market. As harvest rolls on, small nut size has been a problem due to tough summer weather, but the weather did help the crop, too. Growers continue to get high prices, though, spurred by strong export demand, which the industry is working to maintain and grow.
Earlier in the fall, estimates had the crop closer to 85 million pounds, but that may prove to "be off by a significant margin. It's now looking like 70 million pounds may be the new number. Some are saying even less. Once growers have gotten into the orchard the volume just doesn't seem to be there as was previously thought. Mostly as a result of small nuts and pollination conditions in the spring which limits the crop," said Lenny Wells, University of Georgia Extension pecan specialist. "Yields will be all over the board. Some orchards will have 200 pounds per acre; some will be good with 1,500 pounds or better per acre.”
Last year was a bad year for scab in Georgia, pecan’s No. 1 enemy. Some growers last year sprayed 15 to 20 times for the disease. Growers worried this year would be a repeat for scab damage due to the excessively wet conditions this spring and the abundant inoculant left over from last year. But by nut-development time in June and July, conditions dried off considerably and growers caught up with control. Scab was not as bad as the previous year.
The same summer dry period was double-edged, though. It played a part in why nut size is a problem for some orchards. The dry June-July came when pecan nuts start to develop, and water demand is the highest at this time and through August. Dryland orchards have little hope for developing large nuts if this timeframe is dry. And even this year, it seems, irrigated orchards are coming up short on size, too, Wells said.
“The second most important factor affecting nut size is crop load. Crop load is hit-and-miss this year. Some orchards have a pretty heavy crop, while some have virtually nothing. All things being equal, where the crop is heavier, nut size should be expected to be smaller,” Wells said.
Also, temperature plays a part in large nuts. “The more heat, the larger the nut size,” he said. June and July in Albany, Ga., the hub of the state’s pecan production, was cooler than in previous years.
But the market still wants pecans. Contracts for the Stuart variety range between $2.40 and $2.50 a pound. Desirables, the most planted variety in Georgia, are going for between $2.85 and $2.95. Prices will likely stay high through November. China continues to drive the demand for U.S. pecans. With their newfound taste for them, the country now buys a quarter to a third of the total U.S. pecan crop annually.
Late Chinese New Year a good thing
The market is expected to stay strong at least through November because China’s New Year, it’s biggest pecan-consuming time, falls later this year; a good thing for the crop, too, because the Georgia crop is running about two weeks behind typical development and harvest.
Georgia, the top pecan-producing state, is estimated to have 140,000 to 150,000 acres in commercial production, and that total is growing. Wells conducted an on-going grower survey from January through March in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014 to gauge pecan tree planting in the state. The current survey documents the planting of 391,488 pecan trees and 15,328 additional pecan acres since 2010 in Georgia. And orchard size is growing, too. In 2010, the survey shows average new orchard size at 40 acres. It dropped to 35 acres in 2012. In 2014, the average size for a new orchard was 62 acres.
“And as long as export market is there I think it will keep sustaining the growth,” Wells.
There are well-established pecan-interest groups in pecan-producing states and nationally, but the industry is now moving to gel more closely to promote the U.S. pecan brand.
The U. S. Pecan Council was created in May 2013 to bring together all segments of the American pecan industry, across the 14 states that grow and process pecans. In April, this council changed its name to the American Pecan Board.
Mike Adams, a Texas pecan grower, is the board’s president. “After careful consideration and experienced counsel from marketing specialists, the board voted unanimously to change the name of the organization. It is the sense of the board that the new name is well suited to serve the marketing objectives of the pecan industry going forward. All stakeholders that produce, buy, and handle pecans in the U.S. can identify with and benefit from the brand ‘The American Pecan’ which we are using as an identifying trademark for all pecans grown in the U.S.”
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