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US (MO): Company will pay more than ever before for black walnuts

Black walnut harvesters brace for a difficult season. After last year's stellar crop, producers now expect lower than usual numbers. Many growers blame the drought.

"There is going to be somewhat of an impact. It's probably going to be a slightly more down crop than it would be typically. But the full impact isn't going to be known until we start cracking these nuts and see what kind of yield we are getting out of them," said David Hammons, vice president of marketing for Hammons Products Company.

Typically, Hammons Products Company needs 20 million pounds of black walnuts a year.

"Harvest is exciting, every harvest is different. Whenever Oct. 1 comes, you never know whether you are going to get hit hard, nuts are going to fall or whether they are going to fall later in the season or what," said Joe Brasher, outside supervisor with Hammons Products Company.

"They are the 'black gold' of the Ozark region. Black walnuts are a wild nut, you can find them growing in uncultivated trees throughout the Ozarks especially, but all across North America. More black walnuts come from the Ozarks and Greene County than any other place in the world," said Hammons.

The black walnut has a cyclical growing season that may produce more of a harvest one year versus another year. Together with the drought, crops may not be as plentiful as the 2011 harvest.

"What we see is, the black walnut being a wild nut, we rely on nature's on-again, off-again harvest," said Hammons.

"It's been kind of slow. We really need a good frost and a good hard wind to knock the nuts down," said Brasher.

In a usual season, Brasher has about a 30-worker crew. This year, he predicts half the amount of workforce.

Due to the smaller harvest, Hammons Products Company will pay more than ever before for black walnuts. People can go to more than 200 locations in the region to sell the nuts until the end of the season on Nov. 5.


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