At Mason Pecans in Fort Valley, Ga., China is their biggest client. It's where 80 percent of their annual product goes. General partner Trent Mason says China has been a popular destination for Georgia-grown pecans because of the importance China places on health benefits. "They'll dip them in their favorite soy sauce and let them soak," Mason explains. "They eat pecans at their games like we eat boiled peanuts."
Eighty percent of the world's pecans are grown in America, and much of that production is from Georgia. China is currently the largest foreign market of U.S. pecans.
Mason says India is now in the same position China was five or six years ago as an emerging market. However, the problem in India is that the Indian government imposes a 10 percent tariff on other tree nuts, such as almonds and pistachios, but has a much higher rate for pecans at 36.26 percent. "We're 25 percent higher in marketing our product from the get-go," Mason says.
It's why U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), who represents the largest pecan-growing district in the country, including Peach County, says he's trying to remedy the situation. After learning that U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman would be in talks with the Indian prime minister, he sent a letter to Froman asking him to put the pecan tariff issue on the agenda as well.
Mason says just lowering the rate comparable to other nuts would make India a prime target for their business. "I have no doubt that they'll get that cleared up," Mason says. "India is the next China in the pecan industry."