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Few Mississippi Pecans Available For Holidays
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Holiday cooks may want to shop early while prices and supplies last for locally grown pecans.
"The 1998 crop could be the lowest crop in growers' memories," said Dr. Freddie Rasberry, horticulturist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "The few pecans that were set early on were lost to drought stress and the hurricane."
Rasberry said before the 1994 ice storm, Mississippi had the potential for producing a 10 million pound crop. The state's pecan harvest had been increasing slightly each year since 1995 until this year. Earlier in the season, he believed the state might produce 2.5 million pounds, which was near or slightly better than last year's harvest. His revised estimate is for less than 1 million pounds.
Travis Jenkins of Rena Lara has pecans in Coahoma and Bolivar counties. His trees near Rena Lara lost nuts from May winds. While the trees near Cleveland are better, the drought has taken a toll by producing smaller and fewer nuts.
"Since 1990, we've had more disasters than in the 50 years I've been in the business," Jenkins said.
Jenkins said early prices are running from 70 cents to $1.50 per pound, depending on the quality. Consumers may pay triple the price that the growers receives.
Rasberry said the entire Southeast crop is below average this year. Georgia, which can produce 180 million pounds, is expected to produce 25 to 30 percent of their normal crop.
Hurricane Georges wiped out much of the South Mississippi crop. Growers in Stone County lost about 600 acres of pecans. Tree recovery efforts have not progressed enough to predict the future of many South Mississippi orchards.
"Unfortunately, we don't know what this drought stress could mean to next year's harvest either," Rasberry said. "Since trees set their fruit in the early fall for the coming season, these drought-stressed trees may set vegetative buds rather than floral buds. It is common for stressed trees to take care of themselves first."