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What’s going on with the pecan market?

Harvest season has arrived for pecans in Georgia. We have an excellent crop of pecans this year from the perspective of both volume and quality. However, the pecan market is quite disturbing to most growers at the moment.

Prices so far in the early part of the harvest season are down considerably from recent years. They are down even in comparison to the prices we saw prior to China’s entrance into the market. In 2009, the average in-shell price was $1.28 per lb when averaged across all varieties and harvest dates. As China entered the market the following year, 2010, in-shell pecan prices averaged $2.17 per lb and we enjoyed similar prices until the trade tariffs went into place.

We were hearing all throughout the summer that prices would be lower this year and that is indeed the case. The highest prices I have heard of on the market were for early Pawnees at $2.35-$2.40/lb. This price didn’t hold for long and is now down in the range of $2.07-$2.26. Elliots have been in the range of $2.05-$2.15. I have spoken with growers who received $1.60 contracts for a few loads of Stuarts a couple of weeks ago, which is the highest price I have heard for that variety. Even good quality Oconee at 44 count and 56% kernel were only bringing $1.80-$1.90 offers. I have heard these prices have dropped a little as well. Moneymaker prices have been 0.60-0.90/lb, if you could even get a price quote for them. I don’t know of any Desirable sales yet at this point, but I have heard prices tossed about in the range of $1.75-$1.90. It’s hard to grow Desirable at any sort of profit when you get below that range.

Needless to say, there is a lot of uncertainty in the market. So what is happening here? Sheller inventory has been up and down and some have called its accuracy into question. I have heard numerous scenarios—U.S. shellers buying a large volume of South African nuts cheaply when China didn’t buy them this summer, China’s purchase of a large volume of almonds at low prices, which pushes down the price of other nuts, and of course the flood of Mexican nuts into the U.S. With the exception of the Mexico nuts, I don’t know for sure of the details or accuracy of the other scenarios.

Regardless, buyers seem very hesitant to purchase pecans with this uncertainty in the market. I am told China is in the market but they are very price sensitive this year. There are other factors at play regarding China. The tariffs and COVID are playing a big role but even beyond that, our crop is early, the Chinese New Year is late, they are buying some from South Africa, and the U.S. pecans going to China are now going via a direct route rather than through Vietnam and other channels. This cuts down on the shipping time. So, given all these factors, though China is interested, they have time to wait and are simply in no hurry to buy right now.

I don’t have a crystal ball and I can’t tell you when to sell or at what price. I just want to let growers know what is happening in the market at the moment. Hopefully, we will see things change and the market will pick up in the next few weeks as more nuts begin to come in. Hopefully prices will stabilize.

Keep a check on recent prices in Georgia at the following link: https://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/tv_fv140.txt

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About Lenny Wells

I am a Professor of Horticulture and Extension Horticulture Specialist for pecans at the University of Georgia. My research and extension programs focus on practical cultural management strategies that help to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of pecan production in Georgia.