Why you should buy pecans for Thanksgiving NOW

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Why you should buy pecans for Thanksgiving NOW

Are you thinking of making a pecan pie for Thanksgiving? You may want to stock up the nut now—industry insiders predict that the price of pecans will skyrocket this holiday season. Read on to discover what's driving the price change and how businesses cope with higher costs.

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Forbes reports that the experts predict grocery store prices of pecans will increase by several dollars per pound, jumping from about $9 for a one-pound bag of pecan halves to over $11 per pound, in late November due to growing Chinese demand and lower American pecan production.

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Pecan crop cycles naturally have their ups and downs, and last year's bumper crop (an agriculture term that means a particularly productive harvest) yielded 350 million pounds of nuts. By keeping the nut surplus in cold storage and slowly releasing it into the market, consumers were able to enjoy pecans year-round at good prices.

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Growers estimate that this year's pecan production in the United States will be much smaller, at around 230 million pounds, due to a less bearing year in the pecan crop cycle and too much rain in Georgia, nation's largest pecan producer, last summer. While rain is good for pecan crops, too much moisture can cause a fungal infection called scab that deteriorates crop quality.

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Georgia wasn't the only state hit by bad weather. Dallas News reports that pecan-growing regions in Texas were hit hard by a springtime freeze that will reduce this year's production by about 30 percent.

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China's growing demand for pecans, which are eaten during the Chinese New Year and the Mid-Autumn Festival and are popular among the growing middle class, has also affected the market, according to Forbes. One expert estimates that last year China bought more than a third of the United State's pecan production.

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Traditionally, China favored walnuts for these celebrations, but higher walnut prices in 2007 left the country searching for cheaper alternatives.

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Some pecan business owners believe that China will buy more conservatively this year. Last year's abundant harvest and lower prices fueled heavy spending, and China can find cheaper pecans in Mexico, where farm operating costs are lower and the harvest is bountiful this year.

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According to CNNMoney, China pays premium for in-shell nuts because in their country the nuts are cracked open, roasted with different flavorings and sold to consumers to be consumed much like a pistachio.

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China's preference for whole nuts has negatively impacted the American shelling trade, cutting out those who buy nuts from growers and prepare them to use as ingredients for retailers and manufacturers.

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One Fort Worth, TX-based nut wholesaler tells Dallas News, "Growers can get much more money if they sell to China, and that’s what drives the prices up... and there’s less pecans for us."

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Farmers start harvesting pecans in October, and the fresh crop of nuts pop up in stores by late October. You can distinguish between the fresh nuts and the ones kept in cold-storage from the last growing season by their color; fresh nuts have a lighter appearance.

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Businesses struggle with the decision of absorbing the price increase or off-setting the cost in creative ways. For example, one Texas-based ice cream company refuses to alter their recipe and will simply make as many pints of their butter pecan ice cream until it sells out.

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Back in 2011, one pecan snack company dealt with rising pecan prices by making their packaging smaller and reducing the quantity of nuts.

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One gourmet gift company found purchasing pecans in cheaper crumble form rather than in halves helped to cut the cost of making their mini pecan pies.

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The same company plans to adjust the ratio of nuts in their mixed nut gifts to incorporate larger quantities of cheaper nuts and less of the more expensive nuts.

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If you purchase your pecans now, they will keep fresh in a cool, dry environment for two to four weeks. They can last about nine months in the refrigerator or two years in the freezer.

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Freezing pecans does not significantly affect their flavor, so it's okay to freeze and thaw the nuts as often as you like. Just make sure to store them in an airtight container or freezer bag.

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Are you thinking of making a pecan pie for Thanksgiving? You may want to stock up the nut now—industry insiders predict that the price of pecans will skyrocket this holiday season.

Forbes reports that the experts predict grocery store prices of pecans will increase by several dollars per pound in late November due to growing Chinese demand and lower American pecan production. Currently, you might be able to purchase a one-pound bag of pecan halves for about $9 at your local grocery store, but wait a few weeks and the prices may potentially jump to $11 or $12 per pound.

Last year's ample harvest of pecans, which produced 350 million pounds of nuts, sharply drove down prices, and consumers can still get a good deal because the nut surplus has been kept in cold storage and slowly released into the market. However, growers estimate that this year's pecan production in the United States will be much smaller, at around 230 million pounds, due to a less bearing year in the pecan crop cycle and too much rain in Georgia, the country's largest pecan producer, last summer.

Check out the slideshow above to discover why China craves these buttery, sweet nuts and how businesses will cope with higher prices.

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