Country World Archives 2001-2008

Region's pecans deemed 'best quality' in several years

By KRISTY HEMMINGSEN | East Texas Edition

Picking up pecans ... While many Texans know the back-breaking job of picking up pecans from a small orchard or home trees, this piece of machinery could make some envious. The pecan harvesting crew were at work last week picking up pecans around a large pecan tree on land owned by Keller's Creamery in Winnsboro.
-- Staff photo by Hemmingsen

November 20, 2003 -- The harvesting of one of the more popular seasonal nuts is well under way in Northeast Texas.

For over two weeks now, pecan harvesting at A-Bar Ranch in Bowie County has been in full swing.

Farm Manager Jimmy Curtis said the 2,600-acre farm, with about 6,000 pecan trees, has already produced around 50,000 pounds of pecans.

"In an ideal year, we can produce as much as 300,000 pounds," noted Curtis. "So, I'm excited about this season, because it looks like we could be harvesting as much as 290,000 pounds of good quality pecans."

And "good quality" is a definite factor for this year's pecans, according to Curtis. "This is the best quality crop that I have seen in a very long time," he explained. "It might not be the biggest crop we've ever seen, but the pecans are good!"

Curtis said the shells are full on the inside; they're weight is good; and they taste great.

"The customers will certainly receive a quality product this year," he added.

In Red River County, the county's Extension agent confirmed this year's quality and quantity. "The pecan outlook in our area is great," said Lynn Golden from his office in Clarksville. " Many pecan producers have excellent crops. This year is far better than average."

According to Cindy Wise, executive vice president of the Texas Pecan Growers Association, prices for the good quality pecans have been about $1.50 to $1.75 a pound, depending on the variety and the quality.

"About typical for this time of the year," Wise said.

Last year, pecan producers received higher prices because total tree nut production in the U.S. was down, which helped bolster the market.

"There was no increase in prices (this year) because of a shortage," Wise said, noting the prices this year were certainly not bad.

Throughout Texas, pecan growers are seeing high yields and good quality pecans. In some areas of the state where the fall weather was wet and cool, the pecans' shucks opened sooner. Growers in the southern part of the state have harvesting for over a month, Wise added.

She also pointed out that most of the pecans harvested in the early part of the year are used for the gift pack market, because they are usually of a higher quality.

The Texas Agricultural Statistics Service is estimating 70 million pounds of pecans will be harvested in 2003, up from the 40 million harvested last year.

A possible explanation for the healthy yields may be the absence of disease and insect problems this year.

"Texas has not had any major problems with disease. However, the southeastern part of the U.S. has," Wise said.

She said constant rain was the culprit behind scab infestations in states such as Alabama, Florida and Georgia. The disease affects pecans by allowing a fungus to grow on the nuts and the leaves. It is an on-going problem in any humid area, but can be easily controlled.

Georgia is considered the No. 1 pecan-producing state in the nation. Texas, with commercial pecan operations located throughout the state, ranks second in most years.