Having pecan pie for Thanksgiving? Consider yourself lucky.
A pecan shortage has driven up the price of pecans by 30 percent, The New York Times reports, resulting in pricey pies and picky pie buyers.
What's behind the dwindling pecan supply? Record rainfall, feral pigs, squirrels and "a growing love affair between the Chinese middle class and the pecan," according to the paper.
According to pecan industry officials, orchards produced roughly 302 million pounds of the nuts in 2012. (In Georgia, the nation's top pecan producer, the pecan harvest is expected to yield just half the amount it did last year. The reason: rain.) In Texas, the pecan harvest was hurt by pigs and squirrels "always looking for a free nut."
“The crop faced a lot of wildlife pressure,” Blair Krebs, associate director of sales and marketing at the Texas Pecan Growers Association, told the Times.
The other pressure comes from China, where the American pecan is coveted. The country consumes more than a third of the U.S. pecan crop.
The Hudson Pecan Company, Georgia's largest pecan orchard, sends more than 90 percent of its pecan crop to China.
China's infatuation with the pecan is relatively new.
Before 2006, no one in China ate pecans, according to James McWilliams, author of "The Pecan: A History of America’s Native Nut." But at a trade show in Paris that year, an official from New Mexico’s Department of Agriculture introduced a group of Chinese buyers to pecans.
"The Chinese cracked them open, sampled them, and were intrigued," McWilliams writes, "so intrigued that they traveled to New Mexico to meet growers, tour orchards, and discuss tentative contracts.” At the time, China didn’t import any pecans, and it didn’t (still doesn’t) grow any, either.
"The Chinese now eat pecans like we eat pistachios," Slate's Beth Goulart writes, "partially shelled and brined, then roasted for extra salty-crunchy goodness."
All of which adds up to peaking pecan pies prices that can range from $20 to $34 per pie.