Despite the weather challenges this year, most Mississippi pecan producers expect a good yield.
However, a wet spring and late-summer drought could mean nut loss and lessened nut quality for some growers.
“High moisture in the early season led to pecan scab fungus, so unsprayed orchards will have the most loss,” said Eric Stafne, fruit and nut specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service. “I’ve also seen a lot of wafery pecans, which means those pecans did not get enough water during nut filling from late July into early September. Pecans demand lots of water during this time period, as much as 2 inches per week.”
Max Draughn, president of the Mississippi Pecan Growers Association, said he expects Mississippi growers to have a good yield but nut quality could be diminished because of the late-summer drought and high temperatures.
“The crop volume-wise looks good. Most of the varieties are in an on-year,” Draughn said, explaining that pecan trees produce in alternating years. “We’ll have a heavy crop, but quality could be hurting to some degree, especially for producers whose orchards aren’t irrigated. We had 90-degree weather all the way into October. When it’s dry and hot like that late in the season, pecans won’t progress like they should.”
Demand is strong this year with very little crop in cold storage. Most of Mississippi’s crop is sold to out-of-state and overseas buyers, including China. Although increased tariffs have prices depressed, prices are similar to last year.
“In the last two years, tariffs have increased from 7% to 47%,” said Draughn, who owns and operates Bass Pecan Company in Raymond. “We’re not getting a great price, but it’s still good. The buyers are there, and we could see demand increase a little with few pecans in storage.”
Stafne said the tariff situation creates some challenges, but opportunity is still available for growth of the industry.
“While the U.S. is not the only producer of pecans anymore, it still produces the highest quality fruit,” said Stafne, who also is a researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station. “If China starts buying a lot of pecans again from the U.S., the outlook will be rosier. It is somewhat murky right now. However, I think the long-term outlook is good as other countries continue to discover pecans and get a taste for them.”
The average price paid by wholesale buyers in the Atlanta market for the improved Stuart variety is $157.50 per 50-pound sack, or $3.15 per pound, said Alba Collart, Extension agricultural economist.