As early almond and pistachio harvests are beginning to wrap up in parts of California’s Central Valley, late-season almond harvest continues and walnut harvest is getting underway as the summer season yields to autumn and temperatures begin to bring cooler weather and the promise of a wrap to another nut growing year.
The early forecast for the 2019 California almond crop was estimated to be about 2.5 billion pounds, with production predicted to be just under 10 percent above the 2.28 billion pounds of last year according to recent USDA numbers.
USDA also reported pistachio harvest, which is wrapping up in southern California counties, appears to be up significantly to a healthy 987 million pounds. For walnuts, USDA is estimating a decline to an estimated 630,000 tons overall compared to last year.
While commercial pecan production in California pales in comparison to the Golden State’s robust and successful almond, walnut and pistachio production, the native pecan remains a viable crop in limited areas of the state and is a growing industry in Arizona and a staple in New Mexico, where commercial varieties are grown extensively, and in Texas where both native and commercial varieties are grown and marketed.
USDA is estimating the 2019/2020 pecan year will produce about 221 million pounds in total U.S. pecan production, down from the previous year with most pecan producing states producing less than the 2018/2019 season.
North of Sacramento in Colusa County pecan grower Theresa Jeffreys Bright, who grows Pawnee, Wichita and Shoshoni pecan varieties, reports good nut loads on pecans as they prepare for harvest this month. She expects harvest to be in full swing by the end of October.
Robust harvests elsewhere
Elsewhere, in Edy County, New Mexico, New Mexico State Extension agent and pecan grower Woods Houghton reports his area is in an “on year” for nut production and says nut loads are running above average and he expects a robust harvest of high-quality nuts “if nothing goes wrong.”
Mixed reports are surfacing out of Arizona with most commercial producers reporting an uptick in production as a result of young trees that are beginning to reach maturity and additional acres of pecans added to the state’s production numbers in recent years.
In Texas mixed reports are also the norm for the season so far. East Texas received ample rainfall to boost pecan harvest production but some areas in the Southwest part of the state report dry conditions which helped to slow development in late summer. Commercial orchards near El Paso are reporting average yields but are expecting slight increases in production numbers as a result of maturing trees planted over the last six years.
Georgia’s robust pecan production is still suffering from damages caused by Atlantic storms and numbers will once again fall short of average production levels across the state.
Tariffs add to concerns
Almost without exception tree nut producers across the West and Southwest say trade tariffs have added to their concerns for a successful year. California’s Almond industry say they remain optimistic however that new markets opening in the global marketplace will help offset trade issues with China, Europe and India and say they still expect a robust demand for California almonds in China this year and in the years ahead.
The U.S. Pecan Growers Council reports they are also focusing on marketing efforts across the global marketplace as a result of challenging trade issues, but admit they are facing stiff competition with Mexico’s robust pecan exports, which threaten to take a bite out of what has long been secure trade destinations for U.S. growers. But officials say Mexico and South Africa pecans will fall short of replacing the higher quality and larger commercial pecan variety offered by most U.S. growers.
Reports have surfaced, however, that Chinese buyers have recently visited Mexican pecan orchards in Sonora in search of larger commercial nut varieties to meet the robust demand by Chinese consumers for the upcoming Chinese holiday season, but those supplies are limited.
For more news on tree nuts as reported by growers and farm advisors, subscribe to the Tree Nut Farm Press e-newsletter.