Peanut Growers Have Bumper Year

SANTEE — Peanut growers in South Carolina are used to feast or famine. So after a bumper year last year, they know what to expect.

South Carolina peanut growers planted more acres during the 2012 growing season than in any previous year. The state had 105,000 acres of peanuts last year, and when combined with the best growing weather for row crops in a decade, the state averaged a yield per acre of about 3,900 pounds.

Clemson University Extension peanut specialist Scott Monfort told the S.C. Peanut Board’s 2013 Peanut Growers Meeting in Santee that 2012 state peanut acreage has increased steadily during the last three years.

There were about 65,000 planted acres in 2010 and about 75,000 in 2011. After last year’s jump to six figures there’s likely to be some correction this year, Monfort said. Market demand has peaked, meaning 2013 likely will see acreage reduced to about 70,000 acres.

Like any other commodity, peanut pricing is subject to supply and demand. In 2010 prices were good, Monfort said. But by 2012 prices began to fall in anticipation of the coming yield.

Prices between $550 per ton and $650 per ton are good, Monfort said. In 2011, some growers saw $1,000 per ton. The new normal, at least for the next year or so, is likely to be around $475 per ton, he said.

The big unknown is how many tons of peanuts are in storage.

“It’s going to be tough year,” Monfort said.

Monfort, and Clemson’s Jay Chapin and James Thomas, presented research progress reports at the meeting. The program also included a National Peanut Board update and presentations on disease management, irrigation scheduling and variety trials.

The story last year in South Carolina was reflected across all peanut-growing states.

Dell Cotton, manager of the Franklin, Va.-based Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association, said record crops and planted acreage were recorded everywhere.

The net result of overproduction is that the laws of supply and demand will cause a market correction, Cotton said.

“The bottom line is we’ve almost got a crop-and-a-half,” Cotton said. “It will put a lid on prices because of oversupply. You have to pay the price.”

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