Stein and other pecan specialists agree that pecan prices are going up, pushed higher by greater demand created by the holidays. November grocery store prices potentially could reach as high as $11 a pound or more.

In Oklahoma, production will again be down this year, partially because of prevailing drought conditions but also as a result of three late freezes earlier this year.

"Our last and most destructive freeze came in May and that alone will cut deeply into our production numbers. But another factor will be pecan prices. Last year many producers left nuts on the tree because there was no money in harvesting them," said Dr. Charles Rohla, Noble Foundation researcher and assistant professor. "About 70 cents a pound is break even and I have heard that was the going price in Louisiana a couple of weeks ago, so we are hoping prices will go up for the holidays in order to make it a profitable crop this year."

Rohla says 85 percent of Oklahoma's pecans are native varieties, which are normally smaller nuts.

"Right now we are looking at commercial production numbers to range between 8 to 10 million pounds of pecans this year, and this is down considerably from last year's 28 million pounds," he said.

Dohla says Oklahoma has lost as much as 20 percent of its pecan trees to drought and freeze conditions over the last two years.

The 2012 U.S. pecan crop totaled 302.8 million pounds or 151,400 tons, a 12 percent increase from 2011. The value of the 2012 pecan crop decreased 27 percent to $476.8 million. Production was so good that as the year ended, much of the crop was stored and is still being sold, a development that has helped to keep prices down.

But experts say as the last of the 2012 crop is exhausted, prices will rise as the new crop hits the market. Commercial pecan production was reported in 14 states, and overall the United States produced more than 80 percent of the world’s pecans. Nearly three-fourths of U.S. pecans were produced in the states of Georgia, New Mexico and Texas.

Georgia led the nation in pecan production, with production for all pecans (improved varieties and native and seedling) reaching 100 million pounds, followed by New Mexico at 65 million pounds, Texas at 55 million pounds, Oklahoma at 28 million pounds and Arizona at 20 million pounds.

The value of pecan production in four of the top five states declined in 2012. Only Oklahoma experienced an increase in the value of pecan production from $11.4 million in 2011 to $24.7 million in 2012.

 

Also of interest on Southwest Farm Press:

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New pecan variety available to US producers

Pecans are holiday favorite, marketed now as health food