If there's one thing you should be thankful for this holiday season, it's the pecan pie that is sitting on your table -- provided it's there. News of supply and price pressures have been coming out for weeks, but The New York Times recently declared an all out crisis.
The Dallas Morning News reported at the beginning of November that prices were on the rise. Freezing weather and disease have pummeled this year's crop, which combined with increased demand from China is being blamed for the price bump.
NPR published a story a few days later, profiling one pecan farmer who sells directly to China. The nuts are sold in street stalls and grocery stores for snacking (they don't even make pies!) and are particularly popular around the Chinese New Year, which is coming in January. Exports to China have been growing every year.
And there are more pressures on the prodigious pecan, the indispensable nut for Texas' official state pie. According to The Times, the same feral hogs that are giving wildlife officials grief for property damage and other problems across the state are snapping up every nut that falls to the ground. Squirrels are on the pecan offensive, too, filling their pantries for the winter. Your holiday pie has never been under so much pressure.
While farmers are celebrating the increased prices, pie bakers that are feeling the pinch. Customers are sensitive to price increases, and the cost of making pies has increased in tandem with the pricey pecans. Bakers can't skimp on the nuts or increase their prices, or they'll lose sales to competition. Their only option is to eat it.
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The good news is next year's crop is expected to be a good one. If we're lucky, a bumper crop could cause prices to pull back a little. But for now enjoy whatever pecan treat lands on your table. You might be paying significantly more for it in the very near future.