While the official numbers are not in yet, New Mexico pecan growers are reporting optimistic harvest numbers now that pecan season has wrapped up in nut-studded Doña Ana County.

What was forecast to be a robust 2013 crop estimated at 60 million pounds of in-shell pecans is turning out to exceed just about all expectations. In a straw poll of nut producers last week, most said the pecans harvested this season sold quickly and they estimated there is a 15percent to 18 percent increase over early expectations. If that number holds, it would make this season's 75 million pounds of in-shell nuts the largest since 2007 when 74 million pounds were harvested.

According to a recent report, the larger-than-expected crop comes at a good time for pecan growers across the Southwest.

For information on Southwest crops and livestock, please check out Southwest Farm Press Daily and receive the latest news right to your inbox.

Thanks to a robust nationwide 2012 crop harvest of just over 350 million pounds, wholesale nut prices not only dropped but buyers were able to place large amounts of in-shell nuts in cold storage to release throughout the year.

Farm bill changes updates available.

Pecan production runs on an alternating on-year off-year production cycle, meaning production is up one year and down the next, a growth cycle that is rarely interrupted. While growers across the nation, except in New Mexico, experienced an 'on' production year in 2012, just the opposite was expected for 2013. New Mexico farmers were the only growers in the nation expected to have an on-year for 2013.

Early estimate of the total 2013 nationwide pecan crop harvest was projected to be only around 230 million pounds of in-shell pecans. Retailers reported that by the time the Thanksgiving holiday hit in 2013, just about all the 2012 cold storage reserves had been used up and early 2013 nuts harvested were on grocery shelves in large numbers by Christmas.

The massive harvest in 2012 was not without setbacks, particularly flooding the market resulting in wholesale price drops. The over-supply of in-shell nuts drove both wholesale and retail prices down to a low of around $2 a pound (wholesale) and to $6 to $7 a pound (shelled retail) at some U.S. stores by Christmas of 2012.

In contrast, while cold storage nuts kept prices down the first half of 2013, by the holiday season prices were headed up again because of steady demand and a much smaller expected 2013 crop—but not as high as the peak period of 2011 when wholesale pecans were going for as much as $3.70 a pound wholesale.

In contrast, at the peak of the 2013 holiday buying season, wholesale prices for in-shell pecans ranged from $1.20 a pound for smaller nuts to as high as $3.30 a pound for high meat-yield varieties. The average price per pound fell somewhere in the middle of that range.