the pecan story

The history of pecans can be traced back to the 16th century. The only major tree nut that grows naturally in North America, the pecan is considered one of the most valuable North American nut species. The name “pecan” is a Native American word of Algonquin origin that was used to describe “all nuts requiring a stone to crack.”

Originating in central and eastern North America and the river valleys of Mexico, pecans were widely used by pre-colonial residents. Pecans were favoured because they were accessible to waterways, easier to shell than other North American nut species and of course, for their great taste. Because wild pecans were readily available, many Native American tribes in the U.S. and Mexico used the wild pecan as a major food source during autumn.

Over the last 30 years the demand for pecans and pecan products has increased in line with a growing global middle class and populaces that are increasingly health conscience. The lead time to commercial production is long (6 years from planting) and supply has generally lagged. However, production is estimated to double in the upcoming years with new and extensive orchards coming into fruit. The market demand is forecasted to grow by 400% over the same time span with Southern African production having an added advantage of being in season for peak demand periods whence trees in the Northern hemisphere are dormant.

80% of the pecans that are supplied to the global pecan industry originate from the United States. In most seasons, up to 140,000 metric tons are produced.

Pecan prices have risen steadily along with increased demand from consumers for healthy alternative food. In recent years China has emerged as one of the largest new markets for Pecans

Zimbabwe is well positioned to become a global player in the international pecan arena as-

  • Zimbabwe’s climate, soils and excellent water resources make it the ideal place to grow pecan trees in Southern Africa. Certain areas of Zimbabwe have all-natural attributes that are necessary for commercial pecan production.
  • Pecan trees can contribute over $US250.0 million per year in annual sustainable foreign exchange earnings to Zimbabwe.
  • The Pecan industry is well developed in South Africa and the concept has been proved in Zimbabwe over the last several decades. The oldest Zimbabwean commercial pecan orchards were planted in 1969. They are still producing profitably.
  • The industry is poised for massive expansion in Zimbabwe on the back of increased uncertainty in South Africa around land rights and the superior growing conditions in Zimbabwe.
  • The Zimbabwe Government has pursued partnerships with private sector in order to stimulate agricultural growth. The focus is on creating sustainable Agri-export businesses and pecans fits well in this model.
  • Read the full report – Developing a Pecan Industry in Zimbabwe

Plant material has been purchased from both local and South African nurseries. The main cultivars used are Wichita, Choctaw, Navajo, Western Schley using Eukalinga root stock. 2018 plantings saw 10000 on 100ha (100 trees/ha) and 2019 saw 13000 on 100ha (133trees/ha).

2020 will see 20000 trees planted into two separate lots. These will have the same density and ratios of cultivars as 2019. By the finish of 2020 planting we will have established 43000 trees.

Balu intends to grow 120 ha of Lucerne for either cattle food of sale as well as the 50ha pasture under pivot. We are trialling other crops including pomegranates, khaki weed and tea tree plants.

Balu Pecan and Livestock Company are in the process of developing a cattle enterprise. This will include a nucleus breeder herd that will be the core of a reproductive program. We intend to develop a reproductive center at Balu Estate and using technologies such as embryo transfer and in-vitro fertilization develop a cattle seed stock program that will be positioned to roll out enhanced genetics into the local community and potentially nationally and regionally.

We will also develop a commercial feedlot program, which will dovetail into the pasture under pivot that we have provided through SAT and the EU for the local farmer.

The above program we will enhance by providing satellite livestock health centres in the region around Balu and deliver basic veterinary care and health management; this concept of this is to build a long standing relationship with local producers to enhance the quality and health of their cattle and provide for a better quality and valued product.

the zim pecan industry