Pecan growing in Australia
- The majority of the Australian pecan crop is produced under irrigation in the Gwydir Valley, east of Moree in northern inland New South Wales.
- Smaller scale production extends from the Hunter Valley and Nelson Bay on the NSW Central Coast to the Mid North Coast near Kempsey, and the North Coast around Lismore.
- Pecans are also grown in Central Queensland around Mundubbera and Eidsvold and in the South East in the Lockyer Valley and south to the NSW border.
- Small plantings also exist in South Australia and Western Australia.
- The area under pecan orchards nationally is currently 1,800 ha, producing approximately 3,000 tonnes in-shell (1,650 tonnes of kernel).
- With pecan trees taking 10 years or more to reach full production there is a substantial lag time before new plantings impact crop size. After a long period of stagnation production increases are now being observed.
- Global production remains concentrated in US and Mexico which together account for 90% or more of the world crop. South Africa continues to expand production with small but significant crops also to be found in Central and South America.
- “Trawalla” farm, established on an original 700 ha by the Stahmann family in the early 1970s and further expanded in the years since, remains the biggest large-scale orchard in Australia but a number of new orchards have been planted in key growing regions in recent years.
- These new orchards, together with recent plantings by Stahmann Farms Enterprises has resulted in close to 600 hectares of non-bearing trees that will come into production in the next five years, driving further production growth. Further pecan developments are expected in coming years, by both existing growers and new entrants to the industry.
- Pecans are extremely long-lived and remain highly productive for more than a century, making them a genuine long-term investment.
Markets: present and future
- The bulk of Australian production is sold as kernel for domestic consumption with distribution split between retail and manufacturing channels.
- Stahmann Farms Enterprises operates Australia’s largest pecan processing plant in Toowoomba (QLD) from which it supplies Brisbane in-shell and kernel products to domestic and international markets. Other smaller processors, including Organic Pecan Enterprises, supply mostly local markets.
- Australian pecan kernel exports find their way to all corners of the globe, from North America to Europe, the Middle East and East Asia.
- Pecans constitute less than 5% of world tree nut trade and their consumption is still mainly concentrated in the US, where they are a native nut. However, demand in Asia, Europe and the Middle East is growing. As a result, the pecan market has been strong in recent years, especially since the entry of China to the world market in the early 2000s. Although this intense new interest from China has severely limited availability of supply for other markets in recent years.
- Pecans have many marketable health benefits, among which their exceptionally high level of antioxidants (one of the highest of all natural food products) is most noteworthy.
- Australian pecans are harvested in the northern hemisphere off season meaning that fresh Australian product can be shipped into major markets in the pre-Christmas season and, importantly, in time for the Chinese New Year.
- The Australian pecan industry has been fortunate to remain free from troublesome scab disease which blights much of the production in the US, and innovative production techniques mean that the bulk of the Australian crop is grown without the use of chemical pesticides.
- Australia’s clean and green image is underpinned by the robust food safety regimes required in Australia that are validated by internationally recognised QA systems. As a result, there is strong interest in Australian pecans by a health conscious middle class that is increasing, particularly in our Asian region.