Pecan supplies will be short due to weather

November 06, 1994|By Houston Chronicle

HOUSTON -- A series of misfortunes starting with the freak freeze of Halloween 1993 have clobbered the Texas pecan crop, resulting in the smallest expected harvest in years.

Some of the same problems have chopped yields in other states, which will reduce the nationwide harvest to 198 million pounds, down drastically from last year's near-record 365 million pounds, according to federal predictions.

As a preview of what consumers can expect, the price being paid to growers is about twice as high as last year when prices dropped so low it hardly paid to pick up the nuts.

But prices for this holiday season, when pecans will be a major ingredient in fruit cakes and candies, are expected to stay below the record levels reached in 1992 because of cold storage carry-over from 1993.

Texas, the No. 2 pecan-growing state, is expecting a harvest of 40 million pounds, compared with 75 million pounds in 1993 and 62 million pounds in 1992. There is some feeling this year's forecast is too high.

Georgia, normally the No. 1 pecan-growing state, is down to 70 million pounds from 150 million pounds last year.

The state was hit by tropical storms in July, interrupting fungicide spraying schedules and allowing a fungal disease to run rampant, said Jose Pena, an economist at Texas A&M University.

The government puts the native and seedling portion of the Texas crop at 10 million pounds against 30 million last year and 22 million the year before that.

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