The pecans Texans use to make pies and other treats during the holiday season are currently in abundant supply. But with an increasing export demand, pecan growers will soon be challenged to meet consumer demand domestically and internationally.

he U.S. Department of Agriculture expects Texas pecan production to total 70 million pounds in 2010, up 10 million pounds from 2009. Last year, according to the USDA, approximately 75 million pounds of pecans from the United States were shipped to China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam - more than the entire Texas pecan production and about 26 percent of the U.S. total production.

China, the world's most populous country with just over 1.3 billion people, has major festivals during which many pecans are consumed. That, along with increased purchases from China's emerging middle class, is driving up demand.

Pecan production normally is cyclical, where a good production year like 2009 is normally followed by a lower production year. However, Texas pecan growers bucked that trend this year thanks to good rains and cooler temperatures that boosted production.

Even with alternating high-yield production seasons and unpredictable weather, a growing demand for pecans will keep Texas and U.S. growers at the forefront of supplying this key ingredient for cultural celebrations here and abroad.