Limited supplies will mean growers will probably enjoy another record year for prices, though, Lane said.
“I hate to profit because of other farmers’ bad fortune, but with fewer nuts coming out of Texas and the healthy export market I expect this could be even better than last year for our prices,” Lane said.
As of late September, Lane said he knew of growers who had already signed contracts for $3 per pound. About half of Georgia’s crop is exported, with China being the biggest buyer. Chinese buyers are shaking up the market by personally visiting individual growers and contracting for entire harvests.
California growers won’t be able to make up for the down year in Texas, but the Visalia-based California Pecan Growers Association forecast is for 4.5 million pounds, which would move the state up to the No. 8 position among the pecan prodcers. In 2009, the last on-year, California growers produced 3.9 million pounds.
By Sept. 23, the pistachio harvest in California was at its peak – about two weeks later than usual. The state produces 98.5% of the U.S. crop. The U.S. is the second largest producer worldwide behind Iran.
Richard Matoian, executive director of the American Pistachio Association, formerly the Western Pistachio Association, said even though this is technically an off-year for the green nuts, growers are bringing in exceptional yields. Early this year predictions for the California crop were in the 325 million- to 350 million-pound range, but in late September Matoian said it was looking more like 400 million to 450 million pounds would be harvested.
The best growing season in 30 years that started with a cold winter and a wet, cool spring was a key factor for the 2011 crop. The weather supported a good bloom and the development of large nuts.
But, a huge increase in productive acreage is the primary variable in the volume equation. Matoian said 10,000 to 12,000 acres came into production this year as trees matured.
“We will double the 2009 production by 2017 because of the new acres coming in,” Matoian said, adding that about 60,000 acres are expected to mature in the next three years.
The record crop in 2009 was 528 million pounds from about 137,000 acres, according to the USDA. It was worth $1.16 billion, or $2.22 a pound. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service,that was almost double the 2008 and 2009 crop values.