I was shopping for my baking needs at a local bakery ingredients store a while back when I saw bags of pecans beside the walnuts I intended to buy. I thought to myself, why not try pecan nuts? A glance at the price tag, oh dear, it doubled the price of walnuts. Have you any idea why are pecans so expensive? You want to know, don’t you? I have the answer for you. When you finish reading this, maybe you’ll look at pecans differently and value them.
Dear Pecans. Why So Expensive
Firstly, let’s get to know pecans a bit better.
Did you know Mexico produces nearly half of the world’s pecan supply? That’s true, and together with the United States, they account for 93% of global production. The state of Georgia, New Mexico and Texas produce 75% of the total crop. Pecan trees grow best where summers are long, hot and humid. (1)
They are several reasons behind the high cost and all come down to natural forces that are supply and demand, and weather.
In the last few years, many people are turning to natural whole foods including nuts and seeds. Eating foods in their natural state allows you to benefits from the vast array of nutrients. They are healthier for you and your body, eliminating chemicals and synthetics from your routine diet.
Additionally, nuts are a good source of plant protein for those who are following a plant-based diet.
Coupled with the widespread use of social media, more people are aware of the health benefits of eating nutrient-dense nuts.
The global demand for pecans has been on the rise for the last decade and continue to climb.
While the US and Mexico are the top pecan producers, they are also the leading consumer. Other consumers and major importers are Canada, Netherlands, the UK, and other European countries.
In recent years, the pecan market broadened due to increasing consumption in non-traditional markets such as China and ASEAN countries. The demand actually moved faster than the pecan trees can grow. And you guess right… so the price grows.
China is now one of the top 10 importers of pecans. Their growing economy means they’re more willing to pay higher prices. This leads to price raise – another contributing factor why pecans are so expensive.
You ought to know pecans are not the easiest plant to grow. The trees, depending on the varieties take between 4-10 years to mature and start producing the nuts, and they’re seasonal.
On top of that, the entire process – planting, pruning, and harvesting is labour intensive with high overheads.
Maintaining and pruning the pecan trees until they reach bearing age is important to promote strong and thick branches. This ensures better nut production.
Pruning is also a way to prevent the spread of diseases. A few common ones affecting the branches and twigs are bunch disease, rosette, and twig dieback.
Although pecan operations are highly mechanized, they still require 20-30 hours of labour per acre annually.
All these determine the price of the end product in the market.
A brief process of how you get to enjoy those shelled pecans
A pecan farm starts with irrigation planning and planting new trees. After which, the routine goes like this
- Tree trimming – work begins after the Christmas holidays
- Fertilizing – throughout the growing season; 3 times
- Irrigating – supplement natural rainfall; pecans need a lot of water
- Weed control
- Spraying – feed the trees zinc nutrient and to control harmful insects and fungus
- Shake nuts off the tree (they literally do this)
- Picking up
- Drying, sizing & sorting
- Bagging for wholesale & retail sales
- Cracking for retail sales & commercial (restaurants, bakers, etc)
As you can see, the entire process requires hard work year-round.
The weather can be cruel. At times, harvesting is disrupted by the extended wet season and spring freeze can affect the pecan bloom. This creates distribution gaps in the market and causes the price to increase.
While the primary focus of global warming research has focused on the effects of increasing temperatures and droughts, climatic change may also increase the risk of “side effects” including heavier rainstorms and, harsher and prolonged winter.
Here are a few devastating events that affected pecan farms
- The early April 2007 freeze in the southeastern US severely damaged trees, caused an estimated $117.7 million in losses in North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
- At least 30% of Georgia’s pecan crop were lost caused by Hurricane Irma 2017.
- The April 2018 spring freeze in Oklahoma damaged 70% of the pecan crop.
- Georgia pecan farmers lost about $250 million in trees during Hurricane Michael 2018.
- On April 15, 2020, less than optimum temperatures affected actively growing pecan trees.
What does that lead to? A pecan tree can produce for decades and those newly planted will not begin bearing a crop until five to seven years. Hence, trees lost during the hurricanes mean production and supply are not easy to replace. It will take years.
The following may be interesting for you to know
- In 1919, the 36th Texas Legislature made the pecan tree the state tree of Texas. In 2001, the pecan was declared the state’s official “health nut”, and in 2013, pecan pie was made the state’s official pie.
- Alabama named the pecan the official state nut in 1982.
- Arkansas adopted pecan as the official nut in 2009.
- California adopted pecan, along with the almond, pistachio, and walnut, as one of four state nuts in 2017.
In a Nutshell
Supply and demand, push and pull, I shall not bore you with these marketing terms. I get it, all you want to know is why are pecans so expensive.
Awareness, demand, process, and weather – tie these factors together and you’ll understand why so.
Nowadays, many people opt for natural whole foods as they are aware of the benefits, and nuts are one of them. Do you realise, pecans are often packaged as gourmet or luxury nuts? Well, the high price indicates so.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the global economy, China, one of the major importers of pecan bounces back fairly quickly and well. Their buying power continues. The demand for pecan nuts will keep rising for sure, and so is the price.
In recent years, the force of nature caused many farmers to lose their pecan trees and crops affecting the steady production and supply. As climate change continues, the uncertainty of what’s to come does not guarantee a steady supply. If production does not meet the demand, pecans will remain dear.
Now you know the reasons for pricy pecans, would you consider buying them?
Healthwise, pecans are recognised as heart-healthy food and helps control cholesterol. They’re also high in protein, fibre, and contain several minerals such as copper and zinc which benefit your immune system and brain health.
So, what do you think? Good for you to try out pricy pecans? Tell us what your thoughts are in the comments section below.
If you are looking for the benefits, don’t look at the price. Focus on the value instead. Moreover, you know now what goes into putting the nut on the table. Farming is never easy and it takes a lot of hard work and deals with unpredictable weather.
On the other hand, is it sustainable for you in nutrition and cost? No doubt, you and I want to reap the benefits of eating healthy nuts, in this case, pecans, there’re others less expensive such as walnuts, almonds and cashews to name a few. What says you?
Hey, I have a new article and this may help you decide better – Which is healthier pecans or walnuts?
Me? I’ll stay with walnuts for now. Sorry, dear pecans. Perhaps later.
Ready for you to read:
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Now, Let’s Get Started: Pecans or Walnuts
For US shoppers, take a look at what I’ve found for you. You can easily compare the prices of pecans and walnuts at a glance ↓ or take a closer look on Amazon.
For my fellow Malaysian, like to try pecans. Country Farm Organics has an official store on Shopee Mall and they’re selling organic pecans from Mexico. Good ratings with 4.8 out of 5 stars. Take a closer look here.
Happy shopping and thanks for reading.
Me YourHealthy Corner – Healthy Snacking is Possible
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