Grower: Pecan crop 1 of worst

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Local pecan growers are calling this year’s crop one of the worst in recent memory.

In fact, Tony Holmes, owner of Holmes Pecan, has more than 50 years experience growing and selling pecans and said he’s seen a lot of bad years, but this has been the worst.

“This would fall in the category of probably the worst three years I’ve ever seen other than a storm year, where we’d have a hurricane or something like that,” Holmes said.

Holmes said this year’s pecan production is very similar to last year; there hasn’t been much of a crop.

“Last year was awful,” he said. “For the most part, we’ve had a year like we had last year; it’s just hard with a humid summer like we had.

The quality was fairly good last year, but the quantity wasn’t there,” he said.

Many farmers believe pecans grow in cycles, he said.

“You have an off year, a mediocre year and a good year,” Holmes said. “If that’s the case, the pecans should have been growing on fence posts this year.”

Holmes said Covington County just didn’t have much of a crop, and what little bit of budded and grafted trees they’ve seen producing are in orchards that have been well taken care of.

He said out of the 600 trees in his Covington County pecan orchard, only 35 trees produced.

Holmes runs the Fairhope extension of Holmes Pecan, and his daughter Ashley Holmes Morgan runs the Andalusia location.

He said on an average year in Fairhope, the company can bring in anywhere between 3 and 4 million pounds of pecans. This year, he said he expects to buy only a million pounds.

“So we feel like we’re at about 25 percent of a crop here,” Holmes said. “I would say in Covington County, we’re less than 20 percent of a crop.”

But the company is still buying and the Andalusia location will continue to buy through Christmas.

“Normally we’re there even into February, but the crops are so short that many of our people are telling us they’re through, especially in Andalusia,” Holmes said.

Prices for seedlings are at 80 cents per pound, and Elliots are anywhere between $1.50 to $2 per pound.

“What has been real good in Baldwin is a good crop of Cape Fear Elliots,” Holmes said. “Not a big crop, but a good quality crop. We pay upwards of $2.50 here.”

He said the retail side of the pecan business has been good for them because people just don’t have their own pecans.

“I would say that we have been at least 40 percent above where we normally are, because people don’t have their tree in the back yard that they can collect from because it didn’t produce,” Holmes said. “I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many pecans we’ve brought from Baldwin County to Covington County for Ashley to sell simply because she couldn’t buy enough there to meet her needs.”

He estimated that they’ve brought more than 15,000 pounds to Andalusia for Morgan to sell retail.

“They’re terribly expensive,” Holmes said. “We won’t retail anything we don’t consider top quality. Out of every 10,000 pounds of Elliots we buy, there may be 1,000 pounds of it that we consider good enough to sell retail.”

The prices for cracked pecans at the Andalusia location is $2.50 and $10 a pound for shelled halves. The price is $3.50 and $10.50 respectively in Fairhope.

He said the prices are pretty much the same from last year, but up from $1.50 and $7.50 in 2010.

“It’s a supply and demand thing,” Holmes said. “You just about cannot get the quality pecans we need.”