While the weather across the Southwest has not provided the most favorable conditions for pecan production this year, the region remains in the running as the hot spot for pecan nut production in 2014, despite of an off-year in pecan’s alternate bearing production cycle in New Mexico.
According to the latest pecan crop production estimate for 2014, Georgia and Texas are battling it out for top pecan nut production state this year with each looking at an estimated 65 million pounds of pecans. Not far behind, however, is the estimated 55 million pounds expected for New Mexico growers.
But crop experts at the recent Tri-State (Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi) annual meeting held in late July say remaining summer and early fall weather could change those estimates, and unexpected spikes in pest and disease incidents could clear the playing field before the season's end early next year.
Overall, U.S. pecan production is dispersed throughout the South and Southwest with a total of 14 states that produce pecans commercially, including Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
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If early production estimates for 2014 remain on target, the leading producing states, following New Mexico, include Arizona (18 million pounds), Louisiana (16 million pounds), Oklahoma (15 million pounds) and Alabama (9 million pounds), rounding out the top seven producing states. Overall, U.S. pecan production for 2014 is estimated to top the 255 million pound mark, down from most "bumper crops" in modern times.
But even with ideal weather conditions and little pest and disease pressure for the remainder of the year, domestic pecan demand across the U.S. will affect the industry's bottom line. Demand has remained more or less steady over the last 35 years, though a recent trend of marketing pecans as a healthy food has helped in some markets.
An increasing global demand for pecans offers a bright spot for the industry, offsetting a less robust domestic consumption. But even those numbers have declined more than once in recent years as prices varied according to production problems, most notably drought in recent years.
While the U.S. accounts for about 75 percent of all pecan production in the world, Georgia, Texas and New Mexico produce almost 75 percent of the nation's pecan nut production. In spite of the robust cornering of the domestic industry, Southwest producers are wondering if the future in the nut business is promising considering factors like water availability and increased input costs.