The American pecan industry has been experiencing growing pains for a little over a decade now and the struggle for American growers is only increasing over time.
With the brief exit of China from the US pecan market during the onset of the trade war, US growers saw a slight decrease in demand for in-shell but this was short lived as the US kernel pecan kernel market has expanded, placing larger demand on the need for in-shell pecans.
Now with China back in the market for US in-shell pecans, the demand gap has only grown larger and is expected to continue on the is path for the foreseeable future.
In the 2018-19 [pecan season the American pecan industry shipped a little over 339 million pounds of pecans while growers were only able to deliver 249.8 million pounds leavine a gap of 89.3 million pounds to be filled. The following season saw the gap widen with growers delivering 237.5 million pounds while the industry shipped 369.8 million pounds expanding the gap to 132.2 million pounds. So far this season the supply gap is at 89.1 million pounds and shippers are searching for pecans to fill the ever widening gap.
With a nearly 10 year average to bring a commercial pecan orchard into production, growers are having a difficult time keeping pace with the increasing demand. While pecan imports from Mexico, South America, and South Africa are helping to fill the gap, US growers want to fill the gap with American grown pecans.
The length of time to production in commercial orchards is improving with new, more precocious varieties being introduced into the market. The University of Georgia has been working to release new pecan varieties that better suit today’s growers and consumers. Offering pecan varieties that require less inputs and higher yielding nuts. For now the cost to establish new orchards is still a bit of a hurdle, even with the most precocious varieties, growers still have to maintain an orchard for 6-7 years before any real commercial value can be generated from the crop. And there are still many varieties that will take 10 years to establish a crop of commercial value.
Growers have been adopting new techniques to improve existing orchards and even interplanting new trees in producing orchards to help reduce overhead.
This of course is better than the alternative of having too much supply or stagnant demand for pecans, which was the case not so long ago. For now growers will have to manage the best they can to keep pace with growing demand.