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Thursday, December 26, 2013 - 9:25am

2013 One Of The Worst Ever For Georgia Pecan Growers

2013 will go down as one of the worst years ever for a signature Georgia crop — pecan yields sank below even the lowest predictions.

Farmers had warned of a bad year, as record-shattering rainfall in central and southern Georgia led to widespread "pecan scab," a devastating fungal disease.

"Particularly in the Albany area, where the most concentrated pecan production in the world is located, we had more rain than in any other recorded time," said farmer Randy Hudson, president of the Georgia Pecan Growers Association.

But industry analysts say the final tally of about 40 percent below average yield is even worse than they'd feared.

To make matters worse for growers, prices are about a third off their peak due largely to a slumping domestic demand, Hudson said, despite the industry having made major inroads in China and other foreign markets.

"The pecan industry for years was marketing pecans as pecan pies, and with a healthier society in this country, instead of marketing trail mixes we're marketing pecan pies and we're only selling them during the holidays," he said.

The pecan industry is not one that can quickly respond to ebb and flow in demand, Hudson said, because a tree has to grow for a decade before it puts out a profitable yield.