It’s pecan season, and this year’s crop appears to be a good one in terms of quantity and quality of nut.
But Catherine Clark of Pecan South magazine told Texas Standard that even with a strong growing season, farmers are having to adjust to major changes in the nut business because of the pandemic. She said COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge to pecan farmers this year.
“Unlike past challenges like trade disputes or hurricanes – farmers know how to handle those. But with the pandemic, it’s something that’s ever-changing; we don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Clark said. “And so farmers are having to adjust as more news develop.”
One consequence of the pandemic is that shellers who bought from growers last season have a glut of pecans they couldn’t sell last spring once the coronavirus began to spread. That could affect how much they buy from growers this season.
“This year they’re entering the market with a bit more carryover than they expected,” Clark said.
Also, the pecan market is normally split between retailers like roadside shops; wholesalers like grocery stores; and exporters. But the pandemic has shifted that balance. Clark said growers are going to focus on selling more pecans domestically.
“A lot of those local mom and pop shops that you see when you’re driving through Texas – they are big buyers of pecans,” Clark said.” The retail market is the one that’s really heating up and is really buying up crop.”
China was also a major buyer of U.S. pecans, but that changed a bit in 2018 because of the trade war. It also changed this year because of the pandemic. The pecan market in China is starting to come back, but Clark said growers in the United States are looking to sell more to buyers in the European Union to “fill in the hole that China left.”