Summer rains dampen Georgia pecan outlook

12/19/2013 03:21:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

A predicted poor pecan crop in Georgia has grown even smaller, due in large part to a fungal disease that thrives under wet conditions.

Adding to growers' woes is declining Chinese demand for the 2013 crop and with it, shrinking prices, according to a news release.

Lenny Wells, University of Georgia pecan horticulturist, had predicted a poor harvest of 65 million to 70 million in early fall.

Typically the crop would run about 90 million pounds.

But the crop appears to be more in the 50 million to 60 million pound range.

He blames much of the decrease on the fungal disease, pecan scab.

There’s kind of an old saying in the pecan business that a short crop gets shorter. That has definitely held true this year,” Wells said in the release. “Most growers that looked like they had a good crop are getting about a third less than what they thought was there.”

Prices also have declined.

During the peak of harvest when China was buying the bulk of its pecans, commercial producers were averaging about $2.90 per pound for Desirable, the state's most popular variety.

Prices have since retreated to $1.80 to $2 per pound.

“For some reason, the law of supply and demand doesn’t seem to apply to pecans this year,” Wells said in the release. “I’m told there’s a lot of nuts in storage in China, still and there doesn’t seem to have been much of a demand for the 2013 crop domestically. It’s been a very odd year.”

In addition, kernel weight also is lighter, and lighter nuts are being blown out at cleaning plants.

He blamed many of the problems on wetter than usual weather during the summer and part of the fall.

The rain led to increased scab infections, interrupted harvest and poor nut quality.

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