NMSU: Economic Importance of the Pecan Industry
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Economic Importance of the Pecan Industry


Guide Z-501

Esteban Herrera, Extension Horticulturist
College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences New Mexico State University



The U.S. is the world's largest pecan producer. Other countries producing pecans include Australia, Brazil, Israel, Mexico, Peru, and South Africa.

Two types of pecans are produced in the U.S.: native or seedling, and improved varieties. Native pecans are varieties that developed under natural conditions. Seedling pecans are produced from seed (the nut) and have not been budded or grafted. Improved pecans are varieties that have been genetically altered through breeding and grafting techniques to produce more nuts, and nuts with a greater percentage of nut meat.

Pecan Production by States

Depending on the variety, pecan trees require 205—233 frost-free days for the nuts to reach maturity, thus restricting pecan production to southern states. The following states are most important in commercial pecan tree growing: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas (table 1). Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia also grow some pecan trees.

The top five states, in order of native pecan production from 1970 to 1999, were Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. The top five states, in order of improved pecan production from 1978 to 1986, were Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Alabama. When total pecan production is included, Georgia remains the top producer, followed by Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Louisiana.

Pecan Production

From 1970 to 1999, 1981 saw the largest pecan crop, totaling almost 340 million in-shell pounds. Followed by 335 Million in 1998. The lowest pecan production was about 103.1 million in-shell pounds in 1976. The second lowest production was 146 million in-shell pounds in 1998. While this production variability exists for both native and improved pecans, improved pecan production ranged from 48% (1979) to 78% (1982) of total production from 1978 to 1999.

Pecan Prices

The U.S. average price for improved pecans has been consistently above the U.S. average native pecan price. In part, this price differential results from quality differences, meat yields, and differences in quantities produced.

From 1970 to 1999, U.S. average pecan prices ranged from a low of 29.8 cents (1971) per in-shell pound to a high of $1.14 (1992) per in-shell pound for native pecans, and from 35.4 cents (1971) to $1.57 (1992) per in-shell pound for improved pecans. During this same period, U.S. improved pecans averaged 78.2 cents per pound, while native or seedling pecans averaged 49.7 cents per pound—an average price difference of 28.5 cents per pound. Differences in prices from state to state reflect national and local difference in supply and demand, as well as differences in quality, nut meats obtained, and market outlets.

The annual gross value of pecans produced from 1970 to 1999 ranged from $60.5 million in 1970 to $309 million in 1991, changing dramatically over the years.

Pecan Imports/Exports

Historically, pecan imports and exports have been only a small portion of total U.S. pecan production. From 1970 to 1999, imports (shelled basis) ranged from a low of 0.2% (1981) of total U.S. production that year, to a high of 52% (1986), while exports reached an all-time high in 1990 with more than 9 million pounds (shelled) or about 9% of the total U.S. production. Imports from Mexico and exports to European countries have increased significantly since 1988.

Table 1. U.S. Pecans: Production, season average price and value.

Variety and state  Utilized production  Price per pound  Value of utilized production
1997
1998
1999
1997
1998
1999
1997
1998
1999
  1,000 pounds  Dollars 1,000 Dollars
Improved varieties
Alabama 
Arizona* 
Arkansas 
California 
Florida 
Georgia 
Louisiana 
Mississipi 
New Mexico 
North Carolina 
Oklahoma 
South Carolina 
Texas 
  United States
7,000
18,500
1,200
3,000
600
77,000
2,000
2,600
45,000
900
3,000
2,100
40,000
202,900
3,500
13,000
300
1,700
200
35,000
3,000
800
32,000
1,500
200
800
20,000
112,000
8,000
19,500
760
2,400
1,500
80,000
4,000
3,000
50,000
1,000
3,000
800
55,000
228,960
0.760
1.250
0.750
1.320
1.000
0.904
0.900
0.844
0.940
0.950
0.760
0.840
0.863
0.933
0.954
1.590
1.150
1.660
1.100
1.240
1.000
0.870
1.490
1.000
1.220
1.240
1.300
1.350
0.780
1.250
0.790
1.170
1.000
0.870
0.950
1.050
1.000
0.800
1.050
0.730
1.010
0.970
5,320
23,125
900
3,960
600
69,608
1,800
2,194
42,300
855
2,280
1,764
34,520
189,226
3,339
20,670
345
2,822
220
43,400
3,000
696
47,680
1,500
244
992
26,000
150,908
6,240
24,375
600
2,808
1,500
69,600
3,800
3,150
50,000
800
3,150
584
55,550
222,157
Native and seedling
Alabama 
Arkansas 
Florida
Georgia 
Kansas 
Louisiana 
Mississippi 
North Carolina 
Oklahoma 
South Carolina 
Texas 
  United States
6,000
2,300
1,200
23,000
4,200
10,000
1,400
600
32,000
1,400
50,000
132,100
1,500
250
1,100
5,000
50
13,000
400
1,000
1,800
300
10,000
34,400
5,000
3,040
1,400
10,000
3,500
14,000
1,000
300
32,000
300
25,000
95,540
0.518
0.630
0.600
0.591
0.670
0.480
0.583
0.650
0.550
0.610
0.477
0.530
0.674
0.880
0.750
1.110
0.880
0.600
0.660
0.800
0.680
1.020
0.850
0.772
0.480
0.700
0.600
0.650
0.920
0.500
0.550
0.600
0.500
0.680
0.500
0.539
3,108
1,449
720
13,593
2,814
4,800
816
390
17,600
854
23,850
69,994
1,011
220
825
5,550
44
7,800
264
800
1,224
306
8,500
26,544
2,400
2,128
840
6,500
3,220
7,000
550
180
16,000
204
12,500
51,522
All pecans
Alabama 
Arizona 
Arkansas 
California 
Florida 
Georgia 
Kansas 
Louisiana 
Mississippi 
New Mexico 
North Carolina 
Oklahoma 
South Carolina 
Texas 
  United States
13,000
18,500
3,500
3,000
1,800
100,000
4,200
12,000
4,000
45,000
1,500
35,000
3,500
90,000
335,000
5,000
13,000
550
1,700
1,300
40,000
50
16,000
1,200
32,000
2,500
2,000
1,100
30,000
146,400
13,000
19,500
3,800
2,400
2,900
90,000
3,500
18,000
4,000
50,000
1,300
35,000
1,100
80,000
324,500
0.648
1.250
0.671
1.320
0.733
0.832
0.670
0.550
0.753
0.940
0.830
0.568
0.748
0.649
0.774
0.870
1.590
1.030
1.660
0.804
1.220
0.880
0.675
0.800
1.490
0.920
0.734
1.180
1.150
1.210
0.665
1.250
0.718
1.170
0.807
0.846
0.920
0.600
0.925
1.000
0.754
0.547
0.716
0.851
0.843
8,428
23,125
2,349
3,960
1,320
83,201
2,814
6,600
3,010
42,300
1,245
19,880
2,618
58,370
259,220
4,350
20,670
565
2,822
1,045
48,950
44
10,800
960
47,680
2,300
1,468
1,298
34,500
177,452
8,640
24,375
2,728
2,808
2,340
76,100
3,220
10,800
3,700
50,000
980
19,150
788
68,050
273,679
Source: Agric. Statistics Board, NASS, USDA, January 2000, Preliminary Annual Summary.



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Revised May 2000
Electronic Distribution July 2000