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Pecan Growers Begin Harvest in the Southern Hemisphere

Pecan growers in the southern hemisphere are entering harvest season now and most growers we spoke with say the crop looks “pretty good”. Pecans grow largely in the northern hemisphere mostly here in North America across the southern US and northern Mexico, but farmers in various countries across the southern hemisphere have begun planting trees over the years and have now begun to enter harvest season. 


South Africa is by far the largest producing country in the southern hemisphere with an annual production of around 40 million pounds and growing. South Africa is no stranger to the pecan, during my recent visit I spoke with growers who had pecan trees that were near 70 years old. While production is still small in comparison to the US and Mexico, it is growing faster than any other producing country. The predominant variety in South Africa is the Wichita which is usually pollinated with the Ukalinga variety. South Africa exports around 90% of their production to China with a small portion exported to the US and a small portion shelled and consumed in the local market. 


Australia is the next largest producing country in the southern hemisphere, while there are some new plantings water rights in the country pose a major hurdle to increasing production on a large scale and would likely mean that other crops would have to be removed in order to increase production on a large scale. While a very small amount of pecans have been reported to be exported to the US and Europe the pecans produced in Australia are largely consumed locally. 


Chile, Brazil, and Argentina are the new kids on the block. While small scale production has been around for more than 20 years in the area, recent plantings have begun to put this area on the map for large scale pecan production. More and more farmers are opting to plant pecan orchards in fields throughout the southern portion of Brazil and the Northern portion of Argentina and Chile. Uruguay has also reported some plantings. The production in these areas is still relatively small but quality is good and production is growing. Production estimates are still scattered but there are several organizations working to improve pecan reporting in these areas. Growers we have spoken with in the area report a mixed bag on this year’s crop. Some growers are reporting a good crop while others we spoke with say their crop is less than average. Many orchards are still quite young and are just now coming into production for the first time. New plantings are increasing in the area and South American pecan growers are looking to become a major player in the global market. Shellers in the US have been importing pecans from Argentina for several years now as prices there are still slightly lower than in the US.