U.S. pecan exports to China soared 64% last year as Chinese consumers switch away from more-expensive walnuts.
Pecans grown in the U.S. account for 80% of the world’s supply of the nut. However, Chinese nut distributors had to pay a premium to convince American nut growers to turn away from existing partnerships, CNNMoney notes.
An industry source noted that Chinese distributors were willing to pay U.S. pecan growers a 25% cash down-payment for their entire annual production. That sort of incentive swayed many American nut growers. In 2012, more than 20% of the U.S. pecan crop went to China. That is expected to hit a third this year.
Chinese distributors roast the pecans, which are eaten like pistachios, with consumers peeling off the shell to get the nut.
While rising Chinese sales are good news for pecan farmers in states like New Mexico, Georgia and Texas, it has meant rising prices for food companies in the U.S. and Europe, which use the nut as an ingredient.