With the holidays closing in and pecan harvest well under way in most pecan producing states, USDA and the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (AgMRC) are predicting a good year for the U.S. pecan industry.

Export demand remains high while domestic consumption shows signs of growth as more consumers turn to the nut as a high value health food.

U.S. commercial pecan production was reported in 14 states last year, and overall the United States produces more than 80 percent of the world’s pecans. Of that, three-fourths of U.S. pecans were produced in the states of Georgia (102 million pounds), New Mexico (61 million pounds) and Texas (32 million pounds).

The total U.S. pecan crop was valued at about $550 million, down considerably from 2010 because of extreme drought conditions. In 2010, U.S. pecan production was 293.7 million pounds and was valued at $674.8 million.

In addition to commercial crop pecans, according to the 2008 Organic Production Survey (NASS 2010), the United States had 46 farms certified for organic pecan production. Those farms raised 1.3 million pounds of pecans and 45 farms reported sales totaling $2.3 million.

In spite of continuing drought conditions across much of the nation, agricultural forecasters predict the pecan industry will recover some from last year.

Production is expected to rise and prices are expected to remain strong, fueled in part by a continuing high demand for pecans in China.

U.S. fresh/dried pecan 2010-11 exports were valued at $300.5 million for a total of 157.1 million pounds sold. This represents substantial increases over 2006-07 exports levels, which were 70.1 million pounds valued at $172.8 million.

China represents the fastest-growing export market, with 2010 U.S. pecan export volumes exceeding 3,008 metric tons.

The marketing season for U.S.-grown pecans begins in October and harvesting is complete by the end of March.

Of tree nut consumption in the United States, pecans rank third behind almonds and English walnuts. Interestingly, pecan per capita consumption has held nearly constant over the past several decades, ranging from 0.38 pounds in 1968 to 0.45 pounds consumed per person in 2009.