You may not realize it, but Georgia leads the nation in pecan production with 144,000 acres in production. Over the past few years a growing demand and popularity of the nut has prompted growers to plant more acres, which would increase production by about 50 percent by 2020.
Consumers have become more aware of the health benefits of pecans. In many studies across the nation, pecans have been shown to reduce cholesterol, and the American Heart Association put Georgia pecans on the list of certified heart-healthy foods.
Demand has also picked up worldwide with the reintroduction of the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s “Georgia Grown” program.
China was the first country to fall in love with Georgia pecans. Other countries that have been introduced to our nut are India, Turkey and Dubai. Earlier this year, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black was in Istanbul, touting Georgia’s agricultural industry.
In order to help increase Georgia’s agricultural exports, the departments of Agriculture and Economic Development signed an agreement that transfers most marketing and coordination of the state’s ag exports. The partnership with Georgia Economic Development leverages more resources to help promote Georgia’s largest industry, which has a farm production value of $12 billion. This value does not include any indirect industries like manufacturing, banking or energy production.
It is hoped that all of the new demand for Georgia pecans will increase production levels to 150 million pounds by 2020. Trees planted today will not be in production for another six or seven years, so there is time to continue to market and grow the demand for pecans. Growth in demand is going to be a must once all of these trees come online.
With all of that said, it appears that things are lining up nicely to keep Georgia No. 1 in pecan production in the nation, and be a major supplier across the world.
For more information about Georgia pecans, go to www.georgiapecan.org and www.georgiapecansfit.org.
Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears biweekly on Thursday’s Business page and at gainesvilletimes.com.