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Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

Pecans

By Malinda Geisler, content specialist, Ag Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University, May 2011.

Revised April 2013 by Diane Huntrods, AgMRC, Iowa State University.

Updated June 2012 by Kimberly L. Morgan, Assistant Professor, Mississippi State University, morgan@agecon.msstate.edu
 

Overview

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. Total crop value declined as grower prices fell, partly because of increased crop size.  (ERS 2013, NASS 2013)

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, with each state accounting for approximately 1 to 2 percent of total U.S. tree nut output.

Production

In 2012, 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 25 million pounds and Arizona at 20 million pounds. Production was up in each of these states except Georgia.  (NASS 2013)

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.  (NASS 2013)

According to the 2008 Organic Production Survey (NASS 2010), the United States had 46 farms certified for organic pecan production. Those farms raised 1.3 million pounds of pecans. Total sales of $2.3 million were reported in 2008.

Between 2008 and 2011, the value of organic pecan production increased from just 8 percent of total organic tree nut sales value to 13 percent. In 2011, U.S. organic pecan production generated $5.9 million in farm sales, more than double the farms sales reported in 2008 at $2.3 million. The quantity of organically produced pecans also more than doubled from 2008 to 2011, reaching 2.8 million pounds. The amount of organic pecans harvested in 2011 represents just over 1 percent of total conventionally harvested pecans, making pecans the tree nut with the largest share of organic production.  (ERS 2013)

Pecan trees, the largest member of the hickory tree family, can grow to 70 feet tall and span 80 feet in diameter. Pecan orchards can be planted with grafted trees or seedling trees that are started from properly stratified nuts, depending on orchard grower preference. Grafted trees reach maturity by the seventh year (seedling trees require another 2-3 years), and most cultivars remain productive for decades when properly managed. Some pecan tree cultivars will produce a full crop every year, while other varieties are considered alternate-year bearing orchards. There are native and improved pecan varieties, with the latter developed to improve nut quality, pest tolerance and disease resistance, and earlier orchard productivity.

Exports/Imports

U.S. pecan exports were valued at $486.9 million in 2012, up 30 percent from 2011. Hong Kong remained the primary destination for U.S. in-shell pecan exports, with sales reaching $165.4 million, a 69 percent jump from 2011. Vietnam was the second largest in-shell pecan market, purchasing pecans valued at $67.9 million, a whopping 115 percent increase. Mexican purchases declined in2012, falling to $34.2 million.  (FAS 2012)

Canada remained the largest market for shelled pecans, buying pecans valued at $58.5 million, up by 11 percent. Mexico was the second largest market for shelled pecans, providing pecans valued at $36.6 million, a 74 percent increase from 2011. United Kingdom and Netherlands were also significant buyers of shelled pecans.  (FAS 2012)

In 2012, the United States imported pecans valued at $282.0 million, down slightly from $286.8 million during 2011. Mexico remained the dominant supplier, providing shelled pecans, in-shell pecans and pecan products valued at $200.8 million.   (FAS 2012)

Demand

The majority of U.S. pecans are sold shelled. Only about 20 percent of the 2011 pecan crop was sold in-shell.  (NASS 2013)

The marketing season for U.S.-grown pecans begins in October and harvesting is completed by the end of March. Of tree nut consumption in the United States, pecans rank third behind almonds and English walnuts. Interestingly, pecan per capita availability has held nearly constant over the past several decades, ranging from 0.38 pounds in 1968 to 0.47 pounds consumed per person in 2010.

In 2011, average pecan prices dropped to $1.57 per pound, down from 2010 average prices of $2.43 per pound. Average prices also dipped for each of the five major pecan-producing states.  (NASS 2013)

Outlook

Pecans are expected to continue to rank among the top three most popular nut consumed in the United States. Increased federal grant funds directed toward fruit, vegetable and tree nut research and extension, and export promotion programs, such as the Specialty Crop Research Initiative, have ensured that the pecan industry is well-positioned to continue to add production and marketing capacity. In addition, growing Chinese market demand and favorable U.S. food export programs have combined to provide the pecan industry with access to expanding new markets, which is particularly important given the decades-long consistency of U.S. per capita consumption.

 

Sources

Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook, Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA.

Fruit and Tree Nut Yearbook Spreadsheet Files, ERS, USDA.

Global Agricultural Trade System Online (GATS), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA.

Noncitrus Fruits and Nuts, National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), USDA.

U.S. Per Capita Food Availability, ERS, USDA.

Fruit and Vegetable Market News, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), USDA.

2008 Organic Production Survey, NASS, The Census of Agriculture, USDA, 2010.

 

Marketing

  • Fruit and Tree Nut Outlook, ERS, USDA.
  • Global Agricultural Trade System Online (GATS), FAS, USDA.
  • International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC) - The INC's mission is to endorse activities that provide its membership new opportunities for increasing global consumption of almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts. The INC maintains an INC Statistics Database that contains more than 20,000 data on crops, consumption and trade.
  • National Pecan Shellers Association (NPSA) - This nonprofit association promotes the use and nutrition of U.S. pecans. The NPSA represents members of the pecan shelling and processing industry in public relations, legislative and regulatory issues.
  • Northern Nut Growers Association, Inc. - The NNGA brings together people interested in growing nut trees. The members include experts in nut tree cultivation, farmers, amateur and commercial nut growers, horticultural teachers and scientists, nut tree breeders and foresters. The most popular kinds of nut trees that NNGA members plant are walnuts, filberts, pecan and hickory. The NNGA has been publishing articles, research papers and monographs on nuts, nut tree growth and nut tree culture since 1910.
  • Peanut and Tree Nut Processors Association – The PTNPA has represented the owners and operators of companies who shell, process, salt and/or roast peanuts and tree nuts for more than 70 years. The association’s overall goals are to provide a common forum for the processors and manufacturers of peanuts, tree nuts and related products, and the suppliers of goods and services, to further the advancement of the industry.
  • Pecan Industry Cracks Foreign Markets, USDA Blog, Feb. 2, 2012 – This post highlights the Texas-based Montz Pecan Company, which is operated by a father-son team. The author discusses the growing importance of the Chinese market demand for U.S.-grown pecans.
  • Pecan Marketing Channels in New Mexico, Cooperative Extension Service Guide, New Mexico State University, 2010 - This document reviews the state of the U.S. pecan industry and highlights production and consumption data and marketing channels available to U.S. pecan growers.
  • Pecans: The Native Tree Nut, Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook, ERS, USDA, 2003 - This five-page report provides an overview of U.S. pecan production, consumption, usage and exports.
  • U.S. Pecan Consumer Profile Results from National Survey, Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, University of Georgia, 2003 - The authors conducted a national consumer survey with the goal of understanding the buying habits and demographics of U.S. pecan consumers.
  • U.S. Pecans - This organization, operated by the National Pecan Growers Council (NPGC), promotes U.S. grown pecans in export markets. NPGC became a first-time cooperator with USDA FAS in 2011 and received Market Access Program (MAP) funding, as well as EMP (Emerging Markets Program) funding. The efforts to expand exports of U.S. pecans will continue beyond 2012.

Production

  • Center for Agroforestry, Profit in Agroforestry, Specialty Crops, University of Missouri - This center is a national leader in development of agroforestry specialty crops for alternative income sources for farm families, including northern pecan cultivars.
  • Southeastern Pecan Grower’s Handbook, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension - Authored by UGA, USDA and Auburn scientists, this handbook is 236 pages and contains full color photographs and illustrations throughout. Topics include: Establishing a Pecan Orchard, Pecan Cultivars, Training and Pruning, Irrigation, Estimation of Pecan Tree Value, and Pecan Production Calendar.
  • Pecan Production: Establishing an Orchard, Mississippi State University Extension Service Information, 2012 - The authors discuss alternative orchard planting concepts for Mississippi pecan-belt growers, such as higher density plantings.
  • Pecan – 2010 Fruit and Nut Planning Budgets – Mississippi State University, Department of Agricultural Economics, 2010.
  • Fundamentals of Pecan Management, Oklahoma State University - This is an online self-study course for producers seeking to improve their pecan management program. It includes sections on variety management, pests, storage, marketing and equipment.
  • Home and Garden Fruit and Nut Production Fact Sheets – Native and Improved Pecans, Texas A&M University Extension - These online fact sheets review site selection, variety selection, pruning, harvesting and frequently asked questions.
  • Pecan Production Guidelines, For Small Orchards And Home Yards, University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, 2006 - Details include recommended pecan site selections and preferred varieties, soil planting and preparation, buying, handling and planting trees, and other production details for smaller-scale Arizona pecan orchards.
  • Pecan Production in the Home Garden, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension - Details include recommended pecan varieties, planting and preparation, and other production details for smaller-scale Arkansas pecan orchards.
  • Fruit and Nut Research and Information Center - Pecan, University of California, Davis - The Fruit & Nut Research and Information Center was created to coordinate and make publicly available University of California research-based information, accomplishments and statewide extension activities in planting, growing and harvesting fruits and nuts. Pecan links include UC-IPM Pest Management Guidelines – Pecan and Evaluating Pecan Problems.
  • Digital Diagnostics – Pecan Insects and Diseases, Entomology and Plant Pathology, Oklahoma State University - Digital diagnostics that provide pictures and information on hosts, symptoms and control related to 18 pecan tree insects and six diseases.
  • Sample Costs to Establish and Produce Pecans, University of California Cooperative Extension, 2005 - Sample costs to establish a pecan orchard and produce pecans in the San Joaquin and the Sacramento Valley are presented in this study. The study can be used to make production decisions, determine potential returns, prepare budgets and evaluate production loans, but the production practices will not apply to every situation.
  • Sustainable Pecan Production, National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Areas (ATTRA), National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), 2000 - This guide provides sustainable and organic production information. The guide also provides essential knowledge on the basics of pecan culture such as geography, native versus plantation systems and economics.

Businesses/Case Studies

  • B & B Pecan Company, Fairhope, Alabama – B & B (for Bishop & Brown) started as a pecan mail order business in 1956 and currently sells via its retail and online storefronts. B & B offer several pecan value-added products packaged for individual and corporate gift sales.
  • Delta Pecan Orchard, Tutwiler, Mississippi - This family-owned orchard, located in the Mississippi Delta, was established more than 50 years ago and features a gourmet kitchen and its own shelling facility. Delta Pecan sells gifts and makes pecans available for fundraisers and hosts a blog titled Cooking is for Nuts.
  • Heartland Nuts 'N More, Valparaiso, Nebraska - This cooperative consists of 44 native black walnut and pecan growers from Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas. Founded in 2003, the co-op purchases products from its members, then processes and bags the nuts to be sold nationwide.
  • Knight’s Pecan Orchard, Kevil, Kentucky - This orchard was featured in a 2000 (updated in 2005) University of Kentucky case study report, which highlighted how this grower developed the only large-scale commercial pecan operation in the state. Mr. Kight provided details beginning from his initial idea to invest in a pecan orchard as a retirement project, through his marketing plans, business capitalization and growth periods, and his concern about business succession after more than two successful decades in the pecan industry.

Links checked June 2012.

 

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