Pecan growers in the southeastern US begin harvesting early varieties in the orchards in the last couple of weeks.
Early pecan varieties such as Pawnee have begun opening and growers have begun shaking and harvesting the pecans in an effort to get them to the early market. The early pecan market typically brings a premium as retailers are anxious to offer “new crop” pecans at the beginning of each season which also marks the start of the fall season here in the Northern hemisphere.
This year is slightly different as we enter the harvest season, as the crop is expected to be short and we have one of the smallest inventories in recent years. Cold storage data shows pecan inventories have been trending much lower throughout the season.
Demand for pecans has been increasing at the same time and growers across the US have had trouble keeping pace with the increasing demand as the time to bring a pecan orchard into production is typically no less than 7 years and can sometimes take up to 10 years to reach commercial production capacity.
The market is slightly reluctant to accept the higher prices in the early market as the pecan shellers union has been making their yearly rounds spreading their same old message of too many pecans and little demand.
However, the campaign has largely fallen on deaf ears this year as China has been purchasing in the early market at prices around $2.40 per pound in-shell from the US and slightly higher in Northern Mexico as tariffs are lower for pecans from Mexico. The export shipments have nut counts of 50 or less per lb (110/kg) and 52% or higher meat yield.
Even without China’s purchases, the early market is still strong and expected to hold firm as pecan inventories have reached significantly low levels and this year’s crop will likely fall short of the earlier predictions.
Georgia pecan growers are the largest supplier to the global market and have lost a significant portion of the crop in the southwestern part of the state. Parts of Texas and Oklahoma have seen significant drought and will harvest fewer pecans this year as well.
West Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico are reporting a good crop, but south of the border in Mexico many growers have been experiencing droughts just the same as Texas. Overall pecan quality around the US has been reported as “excellent” but the quantity of available pecans may come up short this year, based on previous estimates.