How Hurricane Irma Hurt Pecan Production

Hurricane Irma was to blame for devastating losses including homes, businesses, and even lives. However, these were not the only losses associated with Irma, and some of them – including Georgia’s pecan industry – may continue to feel the effects for some time to come.

The Number One Source of Pecans

Pecans are a favorite in American households. Consumers use them to make pralines, top sundaes and even bake deliciously decadent pies. Though many states across the country are home to pecan trees by the acre, Georgia is by far the country’s biggest supplier. It sends some 88 million pounds of nuts across the country every year, and according to studies out of the University of Georgia, those pecans could make 176 million pecan pies. Unfortunately, after hurricane Irma swept through in 2017, that number will likely be much, much lower – and consumers can expect to pay more for one of their favorite tree nuts.

Information from the GPGA

According to the Georgia Pecan Growers’ Association, or GPGA, pecan growers across the state reported large losses to their crops following Irma. Almost all the growers across the state lost at least some trees to high winds. Though some lost less than 100, others lost hundreds – even close to 1000 trees. Even the farmers who didn’t lose entire trees to high winds noted that many of the nuts had blown completely off the tree, rendering them completely useless to consumers. According to Lenny Wells, a pecan specialist at the University of Georgia, it was the most damaging wind event in the history of the Georgia pecan industry.

What to Expect

Georgia pecan losses will not stop pecans from making their way onto supermarket shelves and farmers market stalls, but consumers can expect higher prices this year as the supply simply is not enough to meet the overall demand. Consumers may note that pecans are scarcer, and products that are made with pecans may raise in price, as well. Despite the damage done to pecan crops in Georgia, those in other countries – including Mexico – thrived. The US often opts to import crops when local crops are damaged due to weather events.

Getting Back on Track

In November 2017, reports came in that the pecan harvest was still relatively successful for that year. With nice, dry weather following Irma and great prices on pecans, farmers experienced very little in terms of true loss. The farmers who experienced the worst of hurricane Irma have contingency plans in place for getting their crops back in good condition, such as replanting trees and manicuring those damaged by the high winds. Though pecan prices may continue to be higher than the usual throughout 2018, the outlook for this year’s harvest is good.

Though many Americans do not consider pecans an “essential” when it comes to their grocery needs, they are certainly a favorite, especially around the holidays. What’s more, there are hundreds of pecan farmers reliant on a successful crop, so the ability to recover from a devastating storm like Irma certainly helps.