The pecan harvest season is in the books. When farmers and industry experts reflect on the 2020 season, what will be the story?
Will it be an overwhelming crop that produced record yields for some farmers? Or will it be the low market prices that discouraged producers and forced many to store this year’s crop?
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension pecan specialist Lenny Wells offers insight into a season unlike any other.
“I think it’ll be the prices. Even though it was a huge crop, just the morale out there is really low right now. They didn’t get a lot for the crop,” Wells said.
“The volume was there enough to where I think most of them are going to be okay. My concern is, if we’re seeing low prices again like this next year and we don’t have that volume, that’s when we’ll really start to feel the pain. But we’ve got a long time to go between now and then. Who knows what will happen with China and all that in the meantime?
“There are a lot of nuts that are stored out there. That’s certainly going to play into whatever the price turns out to be next year.”
Low Prices All Season
Pecan prices were shockingly low all season. South Georgia farmer Randy Hudson said prices were anywhere from 30% to 50% less than what they’ve experienced the previous three years. All while fixed and variable costs continue to be extremely high.
During the middle of harvest season in early November, Stuart varieties sold for 75 cents per pound. Sumners were selling for $1.30 to $1.41 per pound. Even with minimal scab disease pressure, Desirable varieties sold for just $1.35 to $1.40 per pound.
Wells said the latest USDA numbers estimate that Georgia pecan farmers produced about 135 million pounds. It’s an astounding number considering the state is recovering from Hurricane Michael in 2018. Trees and acres of production were lost during the October storm. Who knows how high this year’s production would have been if not for the storm?
“If we still had the acreage before we had the hurricane, this would have been a record crop, no doubt. A lot of growers had a record crop for their farm. But just because there was so much acreage lost, I think that brought it down some,” Wells said.
Alabama farmers were hurt by hurricanes that destroyed acreage and greatly reduced their crop this year.