Published on 11/15/00

Georgia Pecan Crop Small, but Prices Stable

Georgia pecan growers expect a smaller-than-average crop this year. But a carryover supply from last season should help meet demand for the holidays, says a University of Georgia economist. Prices at stores should be about the same as last year's.

"I don't think we can expect much movement of prices at retail this year," said Wojciech Florkowski, an economist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

According to the Georgia Agricultural Statistics Service, growers will harvest close to 80 million pounds of pecans this season. This is below last year's production of 120 million pounds.

Cold Storage Holds Prices

Because the new crop hasn't hit the stores, Florkowski said early-season prices are a little high.

At some stores, shelled nut halves and large pieces are going for about $6.99 a pound, "which is not a bargain," he said. These nuts have been in cold storage since last season.

Photo: Brad Haire

Due to an expected below-average production year, consumers will have to look a little harder for fresh pecans this season.
"The new crop hasn't arrived to retailers yet," Florkowski said. "(The cold-storage pecans)are sold in large packages at a discount store. So the prices stay at least at last year's level at retail outlets."

Though prices will remain stable, people may have to look harder for pecans. "There will be probably fewer opportunities to buy pecans at road stands or farmers markets because of the smaller crop," Florkowski said.


Since pecans in stores now are coming out of storage, Florkowski advises shoppers to use these nuts first. It's hard to tell how long pecans are kept in storage and under what conditions. However, by using the nuts quickly, consumers can still enjoy the full flavor.

People wanting to freeze nuts for storage this year should wait a few weeks. The fresher crop should be making its way to stores by then, he said. Fresh nuts are brighter, plumper and well filled.

Competitors Keep Check on Retail Prices

This year, a large supply of almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts will be in stores. These alternatives will keep pressure on pecan prices at consumer levels. Evidence shows that if people eat nuts, they will eat many types, Florkowski said.

"Under such circumstances, price becomes a factor," he said. "Consumers may substitute one variety for another if these are available. This seems to be the case this season with almonds and walnuts priced at a level substantially below pecan prices."

Prices More Volatile on the Farm

Prices for farmers aren't as stable as in the stores, he said.

"Prices received by growers can change dramatically from one season to the next," Florkowski said. "Sometimes they can double, and sometimes they drop by one-half."

Prices may rise in years of short supply, but not necessarily drop in large-supply years. Because last year was an above-average production year, a larger part of the crop was withdrawn and stored, waiting for prices to improve. Almond and walnut prices are more responsive to supply and demand.

He said retail pricing strategies are outside nut growers' control. They are just one part of the retailer marketing strategy.

"If one looks at prices of most agricultural commodities, including pecans, prices after accounting for the rate of inflation have been declining," he said. "The decline is not steady, but certainly detectible after a longer period."

With an average pecan harvest of 100 million pounds, Georgia produces more than half of the U.S. crop.

Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.