Published on 11/28/07

Plentiful but pricey this season

By Sharon Omahen
University of Georgia

Georgia will lead the world in pecan production this year. Despite a large harvest, consumers will pay more this holiday season, says a University of Georgia agricultural economist.

Georgia and Texas vie for top pecan-producing state each year, said Wojciech Florkowski, a researcher with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

“This year Georgia’s crop is noticeably larger,” he said. ”We’ll be No. 1 in the country and the world as a result.”

Georgia farmers are expected to produce 120 million pounds this year, three times more than last year and the most since 2001. Harvest will be complete in a few weeks.

The large supply hasn’t made its way to stores, yet, he said. As a result, consumers can expect to pay $1 to $2 per pound more for pecans this holiday season.

“I’ve seen retail prices between $8 and $9 per pound,” Florkowski said. “There’s always a typical seasonal price increase during the holidays while the demand is quite high.”

Retailers have had to pay more for pecans in recent years because of smaller crops, he said. This price increase is still being passed to consumers.

But consumer prices, he said, should lower after New Year’s Day.

Many pecans in stores right now were harvested last year, he said.

“As long as they are properly stored, there is very little change in quality,” said Florkowski. “They are still good quality, tasty nuts.”

Pecans are an alternate-bearing crop, meaning they produce a full crop every other year. This is an “on” year for Georgia pecans, said UGA Cooperative Extension pecan specialist Lenny Wells.

Georgia’s drought helped the crop, Wells said. Though trees were stressed, it kept disease and insect damage very low. Timely scattered showers in August and September in southwest Georgia, where most pecans are grown, helped the crop during critical growth stages.

For more than half a century, Georgia farmers have been major U.S. pecan suppliers. They now grow pecans on 140,000 acres. The crop is worth $50 million to $100 million annually.

Sharon Omahen is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.