The end of the year outlook for Georgia’s main nut crop is mixed. And you can blame both the weather and Chinese tariffs.
Southwest Georgia pecan growers are harvesting as little as 20% of their average crop this year thanks to Hurricane Michael, the storm that downed thousands of trees in 2018. That’s according to Lenny Wells, pecan expert with the UGA Agricultural Extension Service. And while he says, sure, that sounds bad, he’s says he’s still feeling pretty good about 2020.
“Historically, if you look at what’s happened following a major hurricane like that, the year right after the hurricane is usually pretty bad. And then the next year after that is surprisingly good,” Wells said.
That’s because the trees that are left after the storm will have had an extra year to spread their crowns and grow new fruit bearing limbs. Plus, growers are planting new trees. Still, Wells says it will be at least five years before Southwest Georgia growers are back on their feet.
Meanwhile, Chinese tariffs continue to block off export markets for some smaller varieties of pecans, leaving Southern growers trying to get their nuts into US supermarkets where they are competing with the low prices of Mexican imports.