Pecan Market Update

December 19, 2008

This past Friday, December 12, 2008, the USDA released the second of its 2008 Pecan crop estimates reducing their estimate of this year's crop to 189.06 million pounds (inshell basis).  As such, the supply situation shapes up as follows (figures are expressed on an inshell basis in millions of pounds):

2007 Carryout (using 44% conversion rate) 186,570
2008 US Crop (USDA estimate) 189,060
2008 Mexican Imports (estimate**) 70,000
2008 Total Supply (estimate) 445,630

**This is a 'net' estimate figure to compensate for the double counting of US inshell by the US Foreign Agriculture Statistics Service

Since 1990, the average size off-year crop has been 189.08 million pounds (almost identical to the USDA estimate).  When one backs out the estimated amount of 2007 nuts that were incorrectly identified as Mexican by FAS, net consumption last year was closer to 368 million pounds.  Assuming that consumption remains unchanged (a big assumption given today's economic conditions), that would leave a 2008 carryout of 77.6 million pounds.  When one considers the fact that exports for the 2008/2009 crop year have already dropped significantly from 2007/2008 record levels, that Walnuts are now priced almost two dollars a pound less than Pecans (last year at this time they were almost two dollars per pound higher than Pecans) and that many buyers are contemplating reduced annual purchases in light of steadily declining sales, the estimated 77.6 million pound carryout figure could be conservative.  While proper product pricing is always an important factor in the development of any marketing campaign, in light of the current economic climate, it is critical. The Walnut industry is a good example.  In September, Combination Halves and Pieces were being quoted at $3.35/lb in a twenty-five pound case.  Today they are being offered at prices as low as $1.75/lb, yet there are few takers.  If the 2008 crop comes in as currently projected, and if next year's Pecan crop is anywhere near the size of an average size on-year crop (average on-year crop size since 1990 has been 328.8 million pounds), improper product pricing now could turn out to be a very costly proposition.