F. R. BRISON
Professor Emeritus Horticulture
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
THERE ARE TWO general channels for the marketing of pecans. One is for inshell pecans, whereby the nuts go to the ultimate consumer in the shell. Only 10 to 12 percent of the pecans grown in the U. S. are currently marketed in this manner. No great problem is encountered in selling pecans this way, provided they have high quality and the grower exercises reasonable aggressiveness in promoting them. There are, in fact, opportunities for expanding the market for inshell pecans.
The other channel is the merchandising of shelling pecans---those from which the shell is removed and the kernels alone move through the various handling agencies to final user. Most pecans are being marketed in this way. They are sold in cellophane or plastic bags to retail purchasers; they are salted and roasted; they are used by the confectionary trade for cakes, candies and other culinary products, and for ice cream.
Marketing Improvements Needed
The Texas Pecan Growers Association was organized in 1921, and proceedings have been published since 1923. Nearly every convention program has included one or more topics on marketing. Fifty articles on marketing have been printed in our proceedings. Yet, our system for marketing pecans is exactly like it was 50 years ago. Here, two things bear examination. One is that during these 50 years, there has been little emphasis on quality at the grower level. A one-price structure prevailed for the marketing of native pecans 50 years ago, and a one-price structure prevailed in 1965. I think of no other important agriculture commodity for which the industry has been so negligent in differentiating between good and poor quality---no other commodity for which there has been no progress in 50 years.
A second thing is the helplessness of the rank and file growers. W. T. Moore once compared pecan growers to the sheep of the book of Isiah: “. . . he humbled himself, and opened not his mouth; like a sheep that is led to the slaughter . . .” (Isaiah 53:7). During all these years, the prevailing price for native pecans has been the same for superior and inferior pecans. This is discouraging to the grower who spends time and money in producing high-quality pecans. He realizes quickly that, according to the prevailing ng system of selling pecans, his are mixed with other pecans of uncertain quality. Every grower in attendance at this convention has seen that happen---has experienced it.
The agency that extracts the kernels from the shell and makes them avail- able to the consumer for various uses is the sheller He makes the kernels available to users when, where, and in the form desired. This is time, place, and form utility. This is a useful service. What the sheller finally makes available and the cost of his services are determined by:
1. The efficiency of his operation, and
2. The quality and character of the pecans that he uses. These are important factors of quality, and hence should be recognized in determining a price for pecans:
(a) Kernel percentage---wide variability exists in the percentage of useable kernels in pecans particularly native pecans. The percentage may range from 45 for choice pecans to 35, or lower, for poorer ones.
(b) Grade---pecans may range widely in grade. This refers to color, plumpness, and flavor of kernels.
(c) Size of half-kernels---The demand and price for large halves is usually greater than for small ones of a comparable grade. This cost per pound of kernels is less for pecans that yield large halves.
(d) Yield of half-kernels---Kernels that can be separated mainly in halves instead of smaller pieces have added value, since halves normally sell for a better price than pieces.
(e) Ease of shelling---This is determined largely by size of nuts and ease of separation.
Pecans that are superior in these various ways are more valuable and individual grower is entitled to a better price for them. The pecan trade makes some distinction by region, but not at the grower level.
The Texas Pecan Improvement Association was organized in 1965 to help correct some of the inequities, and to help stabilize and encourage orderly marketing of pecans. It can do this by:
1. First encouraging and assisting its grower members to produce better pecans and to harvest them in a better manner.
2. By insisting that buyers recognize grade and quality, and usefulness in the purchase of pecans and that they pay for them accordingly.
3. By helping stabilize the market structure. It’s not good for the pecan industry for wide discrepancies in price to develop within a season and in successive years. It's not good when pecans are handled in ways that result in the consumer getting poor-quality and rancid pecans.
In late summer and early fall of 1965, meetings of pecan growers in several sections of the State were held for expressions of interest and concern. In September, a supporting group of eight was constituted, with each member paying $100 for initial expenses. Application was made for a charter from the State of Texas, but despite this handicap, 30 members subscribed for membership and each, a $25.00 membership stock certificate. Members of the association established a substantial pool of native pecans. Most of these were assembled when the prevailing price was 14 and 15 cents per pound. To date the handling costs have mounted to 1½ cents. At present, the price for shelling stock pecans is considerably more. (Ed. Note: The pecans sold in mid-August for 25 cents, a substantial net gain for owners of the pecans.) It's not proper to emphasize this unduly. There will be adverse years and the outcome perhaps will not be so favorable. More important is the fact that the pecans will be sold with due emphasis on grade, quality and market demand.
Loyal Membership Essential
As the future years unfold, there will be problems of organization, management, financing and the physical handling of the crops. One requisite to successful, operation is a stable, known and loyal membership. Pecan crops fluctuate widely enough. If the membership fluctuates widely, also there is no hope. For this association to succeed, its members must be unswerving in fair weather or foul during good years and poor ones, when prices are high and low. The officers and directors of the Association pledge their efforts that with the passing year’s loyalty can come from confidence born of experience and rewarding participation in the marketing of this valuable native crop of Texas.