No Pecan Pie This Year

So let's see: At $15.99/lb... Image: Wikipedia

So let’s see. At $15.99/lb…
Image: Wikipedia

Pecan pie is a popular holiday dish. Unfortunately, a confluence of environmental and economic factors has driven the price of pecans out of the reach of most Americans. NYT:

The problem began with record rainfall last spring and summer. Pollination became difficult, and the moisture encouraged disease. Pecan growers sprayed their fields in record amounts, but it was not enough to fight off a disease called scab.

In Texas and Oklahoma, it was a summer drought that hurt the trees. Then came autumn’s heavy rain, which made the ground too wet to hold the heavy equipment that shakes nuts from trees and sweeps them up.

As a result, harvesting was sporadic, and the pecan supply was left wide open for feral pigs, which have become quite a problem in Texas, and for squirrels, which are always looking for a free nut.

“The crop faced a lot of wildlife pressure,” said Blair Krebs, associate director of sales and marketing at the Texas Pecan Growers Association.

The bad nut crop has a few other causes, one of which is the cyclical nature of pecans: Typically, if one year is good, the next year is not.

Last year, for example, Texas produced about 65 million pounds of pecans, said Larry Stein, a professor of horticulture at Texas A&M University. Most estimates indicate that this year will bring no more than 35 million pounds.

Then there is China.

In the mid-2000s, the market for pecans in China began to grow rapidly. China now consumes more than a third of the American pecan crop, a development that followed the country’s inclusion in the World Trade Organization in 2001.

“Before that, they didn’t know what a pecan was,” said Randy Hudson, the owner of Hudson Pecan Company here in Ocilla and a vice president of the National Pecan Growers Council.

With about 1,500 acres, Mr. Hudson’s company is the largest pecan operation in Georgia. More than 90 percent of his crop goes to China, which makes him one pecan farmer who is not unhappy this Thanksgiving.

“You raised the price I get by 600 percent?” he said. “You are my best friend.”

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