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Can pecan pie be far behind?

It appears that overseas markets are learning about a good thing.

Pecans.

Of course, that’s no secret to folks here in the pecan belt, many of whom couldn’t conceive of a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast passing into memory without a nice slice of pecan pie wrapping it up.

While poultry, peanuts, peaches and cotton have always gotten the headlines ahead of pecans, the nut is an important component of the Georgia agricultural economy, especially in our area. Anyone who’s driven by a pecan grove in recent weeks has seen the tree limbs straining valiantly to hold onto the nuts as they have filled out and weighted the tree down.

Georgia is expected to produce 90 million pounds of pecans this year, which should account for more than one-third of U.S. production. Already, prices for unshelled pecans are up more than 27 percent from last year.

That’s not the greatest news for a Georgia pie maker who’s planning the Thanksgiving menu, but it’s a reason for thanks for pecan producers and a benefit to the Georgia and U.S. economies.

The reason? Pecans are starting to pick up in the export markets, particularly China, where the nut is considered a delicacy.

In an Associated Press report, Georgia Pecan Growers Association President Duke Lane said residents of other nations are learning about pecans as well. Demand is getting greater in countries such as Canada, India and Dubai.

“China didn’t even know a few years ago what a pecan was,” Lane said. “We’re all really pleased and excited about the route things are taking us.”

There’s already a great deal of potential for strong pecan markets to get stronger, but the announcement Friday about a $1.2 million grant to study the nutritional benefits of pecans could brighten prospects even more. It’s great when something tastes good.

It’s even better if there’s evidence that something that tastes good is also good for you.

And if those people in China think these Georgia nuts are a delicacy now, just wait’ll they get a big bite of pecan pie.