Even with the Texas pecan harvest under way and promises of excellent off-year yields from this state and others in the nation’s pecan belt, the pecan industry is at a crossroads, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service economist.

"The pecan harvest in Texas began recently and continues to gain momentum," said Jose Pena, AgriLife Extension economist-management at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Uvalde. “But while it’s seeing above-average crop production throughout the pecan belt this year, the U.S. pecan industry has a serious challenge that needs to be addressed. Right now, it is at a crossroads.”

Pena said the industry’s challenge is to meet the increasing demand for pecans, particularly export demand from China, while continuing to provide adequate supplies for domestic consumption.

“The Oct. 8 official U.S. Department of Agriculture estimate of the nation’s pecan crop at 271.3 million pounds is just 20.5 million pounds lower than 292(million pounds) produced last year,” Pena said. “Together with the estimates of ‘carry-in’ pecan supplies at about 92 million pounds, this would make the estimate of available pecans at about 363.3 million pounds.

"But even though this reflects above-average production, especially for an off year, the overall supply is still down about 26.5 million pounds from last year.”

Pena added that pecan imports from Mexico also will be less than last year since 2010 is similarly an off year for pecan production there, and this will further lower the aggregate supply of pecans available.

“Also, even with good overall growing conditions over most of the pecan belt during the past year, many producers still experienced lower-than-average yields due to crop stress this summer,” he said.