Is 2017 looking like a bumper year for pecans?

January 2, 2018

by Logan Hawkes

Late summer is generally when pecan growers are sizing up their current crop, checking trees for nut load, overall development, and pest and disease pressures as they monitor markets for early signs of demand and nut prices.

Behind Georgia, New Mexico and Texas are the No. 2 and No. 3 largest producers of U.S. pecans respectively, while Oklahoma, Arizona and Louisiana all produce significant pecan crops each year, making the greater Southwest region one of the leading areas for U.S. pecan production. According to growers across the Southwest, if early signs of crop and market growth are correct, the 2017/18 season could be a good one—if all the cards fall right.

Earlier this month, USDA released numbers on last year’s pecan crop, revealing 2016 was a good year for strong prices and high demand. A high of nearly $3 a pound for high quality nuts were reported at the height of last season. Overall, New Mexico growers, known for the superior quality of their pecans, received an average of just under $2.94 a pound for the year, a record high.

According to USDA, U.S. pecan growers produced about 292 million pounds of in-shell pecans in 2016, which was largely viewed as an “on year” for pecan production. Pecan trees alternate between “on years,” with moderate to good nut production, and “off years,” with lighter production. But because of the diversity in variety and geographic growing areas, an “on year” in one state may be an “off year” in another.

To gauge the importance of pecan production across the southwest region, in recent years nearly 170 million pounds of pecans per year were produced across the region, including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona and Louisiana, representing about 59 percent of the average total annual pecan production in the United States.

In mid-July the first estimates of the size of the 2017/18 crop were released, and if those numbers hold true, the U.S. will produce an estimated 270 to 280 million pounds of pecans, most of which will be from the Southwest region.

While strong prices are expected for this year’s pecan crop, many growers across the Southwest are concerned that while demand, both domestic and international, has demonstrated some growth over the last two years, the exceptionally high prices for U.S. pecans could force large nut buyers to purchase more walnuts and almonds to avoid higher pecan prices. The end result could be a rapid decline in pecan prices if that trend were to continue.

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Category: Agriculture