U.S. pecan producers will barely crack the 200 million pound level this year, nearly 80 million pounds below last year.

The 201.4 million pound estimate, 28 percent off last year, spurred “excellent bids for good quality pecans for the gift pack/fund market,” says Jose Pena, Texas Extension economist-management, Uvalde.

Pena says a carry-in stocks estimate of 133.9 million pounds is about twice the carry-in last year. Estimate of total supply, 335 million pounds, is down 11.1 percent from a year ago and up about 50 million pounds from 2004, “when prices reached record highs.”

Pena says total supply does not appear out of line with numbers over the past four years. During that period prices showed “significant strength,” he says. “The market should remain relatively strong.” What Pena calls a “slight adjustment” in prices last season may have resulted from an overly optimistic pre-season industry forecast, up to 340 million pounds.

Pena says the 2006 market price may not reach record highs but should hold strong. He says the 2001 market collapse came from a large crop, 339 million pounds. The 9/11 tragedy, a weakened economy, reduced confidence in corporate America, collapse of the stock market and stiff competition from a record tree nut crop all contributed to lower prices.

Pena says Mexico's pecan crop will be up from last year, 166.8 million pounds compared to 161.7 million in 2005. Mexico is the main pecan exporter to the United States, and averaged 60 million pounds to 72 million pounds until the last two seasons when its crop jumped to about 90 million pounds, making up for short U.S. supplies.

Pena says imports could affect the U.S. commercial market. “But imports are market driven and Mexico has limited pecan storage capacity. Mexico also is the principal importer of U.S. pecans.” Estimates put potential Mexican import of U.S. pecans at 21 million pounds for the 2006/07 crop.

The U.S. tree nut crop estimate could set a new record, at 2.33 billion pounds, up 1.2 percent from last year. That includes a 14.8 percent increase for almonds, 48.6 percent for hazelnuts, and a drop of 1.4 percent for walnuts.

Pena says even with record tree nut harvests the past few years prices have improved because of increased world demand.

Texas pecan production estimate for 2006 is 36 million pounds, down 45 percent from last year's 65-million pound production. New Mexico leads the nation at 46 million pounds, down from 65 million pounds last year. Georgia, at 45 million pounds, is off 44 percent from an 80 million-pound 2005 crop. Oklahoma producers will make 20 million pounds.

Louisiana, at 19 million pounds, will be up 280 percent from last year's 5 million-pound crop. Mississippi, at 2.5 million, is up 150 percent from last year's 1-million pound crop.