LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Chinese tariffs and bad weather during harvest season have hurt Arkansas’ pecan industry, an academic said.
Pecans are the state’s top nut. The U.S. produces around 80% of the world’s pecans.
But China, the biggest foreign consumer of U.S.-grown pecans, levied a 47% tariff on U.S. pecans in July in retaliation for tariffs imposed by President Donald Trump on a wide variety of Chinese-made goods.
Scott Nadler, an associate professor of marketing and management at the University of Central Arkansas, told roughly 30 pecan growers at a workshop last weekend that China is beefing up its own pecan output, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.
Nadler noted that China will probably become a net exporter of pecans within the next five years, which will ultimately put their cultivators in direct competition with growers in the U.S
American farmers will need to establish new markets and new customers, he added.
“You cannot evaluate what you don’t measure,” Nadler said, while highlighting that there have been less than 50 studies of the pecan industry and its possible markets in the past 40 years.
From 2000 through 2017, Arkansas yielded an average of 2.2 million pounds of pecans each year, according to the USDA. The crop’s production over that period made Arkansas the nation’s ninth-biggest pecan maker.
A report on Arkansas’ 2018-19 pecan season has not been published yet, said Robert “Crash” Carruthers, owner and operator of Pecan Arkansas, a 160-acre (around 65-hectare) orchard along the Arkansas River bottoms nearby Morrilton.
Carruthers, who is also chairman of the advisory Arkansas Agriculture Board, added that he typically harvests 250,000 pounds of pecans every year. However, this year’s harvest yielded merely 33,000 pounds.
“Most weren’t worth picking up,” he said. “Too much water and too little sunshine.”