American Pecan Council Cancels December USDA Pecan Crop Estimate

December 09, 2021

For over twenty years, I have advocated the need for a strong industry marketing order, if for no other reason than to provide the industry with a unified approach to marketing and for the collection and dissemination of reliable data. When the American Pecan Council was formed in 2016, one of the organizations first efforts was to begin the process of data collection, for without good data, trying to predict markets is like trying to figure out which number the roulette wheel is going to land on (the odds are better at roulette). As part of the industry’s effort to produce said data, funds were allocated to cover the costs of producing a December Crop Estimate and a January Preliminary Crop Production report. The cost was between $150,000 and $200,000/yr. Without those additional estimates, the only crop information available to the industry is the October estimate, a number that is generated through grower surveys every August, long before harvest. No other data is available until May of the following year, long after prices have been set and contracts have been written.

Why do I mention this? I do so because the USDA published their December estimate today, and to my surprise, left the size of the crop unchanged at 258 million pounds (the same as the October estimate). Knowing that this was highly unlikely, and suspecting the worst, I called the APC to see if they had funded the estimates this year. The answer was ‘NO.’  In one of the most irresponsible decisions made to date, the APC’s Grades and Standards Committee decided to cut funding for the studies because the USDA only included 5 of the 16 pecan producing states in their survey. Never mind the fact that those five states account for 90% of the pecan production in the US (a statistically significant figure with any statistician), or the fact that because many growers refuse to fill out the surveys, the cost of collecting the data in the other states is as high as, or higher than, the data collection in the big five. The committee simply wanted to make a point. Unfortunately, that short sightedness has led to even more confusion in a market that was already confused enough. There is a reason why Green Valley and ADM exited the pecan industry, and irresponsible decisions like the one the APC just made, will only contribute to more. There are plenty of reasons to question the APC data as I for one have found numerous inconsistencies. The only way to fix such inconsistencies is to have something to compare the data too. The Grades & Standards Committee just guaranteed that that cannot happen. They would rather continue business the old way, by guess and by golly, rather than operate based on sound business strategy, reliable data and verifiable information. If that is how the APC intends to operate moving forward, then the industry has learned nothing.