Nuts! Spring frost, Matthew destroy most of NC pecan crop

Posted November 30, 2016 5:16 p.m. EST

— North Carolina's pecan crop has taken a double hit this year, meaning the holiday staple of pecan pie might be more difficult to find.

"This is the worst year we have ever seen. There's been some good years and bad years, but it's never been this slack," said Tom Britt, whose family runs a pecan processing business in the Wayne County crossroads community of Grantham.

According to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, as much as 80 percent of North Carolina's pecan crop could be lost this year because a late frost killed some buds last spring and Hurricane Matthew destroyed both nuts and entire pecan trees in October.

"Matthew got a lot of them and got a lot of trees," Britt said.

"We had a late frost, the pecans were just budding, and that hurt us a lot," said his wife, Ethel Britt.

"Betwixt both of them, it's been a pretty tough year," Tom Britt said.

The tough year extends to people who depend on the seasonal work at the processing plant.

"I like seeing pecans because that means more jobs," said Denysse Calderon, who recently graduated but cannot find a better job than picking through pecans.

The Britts said they try to buy their pecans from local farmers and families.

"Some of them would usually bring in 300 or 400 pounds to get cracked. This year, they probably have less than 100 pounds," Ethel Britt said. "Some of them don't have any."

That means the Britts are buying nuts from as far away as Georgia, which costs them more, but they are trying not to raise their prices. The family sells pecans at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh.

"It's going to be an expensive year. It's going to be an expensive year," Ethel Britt said.

"We're going to ride it out this year," Tom Britt said.