Cameron, S.C., peanut grower and buyer Monty Rast says he cut his peanut acreage back by 30 percent to compensate for the over-supply situation.
By July 4, Mother Nature cut back another 30 percent with a 100-year record rainfall in May, June and July.
How much of the 40 percent remaining from his 2012 acreage remains to be seen. “We’ve never had rainfall like this before — it’s a record for the past 100 years, so we don’t really know what, or even if, we will have a peanut crop this year,” Rast says.
Neighbor and former Peanut Profitability Award winner Bud Bowers in Luray, S.C., says this will likely be one of the worst, if not the worst peanut crop he has ever grown. “There’s always time for peanuts to come out of a water log situation, but some of ours are just drowned out so badly, I doubt they will come back,” he adds.
From north Florida to southeast Virginia the news is similar, though not as dire in most peanut producing areas. How much impact the excessive rainfall will have on reducing the over-supply situation remains to be seen.
The good news for peanut growers this year is exports the first four months of the year have already reached 80 percent of what was expected for the time-period and demand for peanut products remains high.
The bad news — nobody knows how big the crop will be this fall.
Speaking at the recent Southern Peanut Growers Association meeting in Panama City Beach, Fla., Marshall Lamb, head of the USDA Peanut Research Lab in Dawson, Ga., said the key numbers to watch out for are final acreage totals.
Some have promising crop
Despite record rainfall in some areas of the Southeast and Virginia-Carolina peanut belts, this year’s crop appears to be on track to be a good one.
Lamb speculates it may not be as big as the record 4,200 pounds per acre produced last year, but it is on track to be a high yielding and high quality crop.
If the acreage reduction is as much as 40 percent, as has been projected by some industry sources, and yields approach 4,000 pounds per acre, the carry-out will still be too high, but could be manageable.
If the final acreage total is more in the 27-28 percent ranges, as was projected earlier in the growing season, and the yield is comparable to last year’s record yield, the carryover would be much too high and could really cause problems that would trickle down to growers.
The current uncertainties of this year’s crop are still being magnified by the 2012 crop, which produced the record yield per acre and was produced on a high acreage total that topped 1.6 million. The subsequent 1.260 million ton carry-out has created a historic over-supply that make the outcome of this year’s crop more critical, Lamb says.
Revival of export trading that characterized the first four months of the current peanut season is critical to managing the over-supply problems that are being faced by U.S. growers.
“China was on track to import something close to 300,000 metric tons of U.S. grown peanuts, but it now seems unlikely exports will buy that many peanuts this year,” Lamb says.
New customers, like the Ukraine, Indonesia and Algeria are buying small quantities of peanuts, but combined with other non-traditional peanut buyers, could be important players in reviving the early rise in the export market.
The world’s largest peanut butter consumer on a per capita basis, Canada needs to remain a good customer for U.S. grown peanuts.
Mexico is fastest growing customer
“Currently, about 80 percent of the Canadian peanut butter market comes from U.S. peanuts. The fastest growing customer for U.S. peanuts is Mexico. So, taking care of our trading partners in North America is another key to a successful export year for U.S. grown peanuts,” the USDA economist says.
At the end of the day, Lamb says U.S. peanut growers need to produce about a 1.5 to 1.6 million ton crop. Again, how likely that is to happen is still very much unknown — some depends on weather and some depends on how many peanuts were actually planted.
If U.S. growers do come in with a 1.5 million ton crop, it would be a huge drop from the 3.4 million ton farmer stock peanut crop produced last year, Lamb adds.
The most recent USDA estimates still call for moderate cuts in peanut acreage. However, key peanut producing areas in the southern half of South Carolina and in the eastern part of the Georgia peanut belt may have additional acreage to be abandoned, which may cut actual planted acreage to somewhat lower levels.
In Georgia, for example, harvested acreage is being projected at 500,000 acres, down from 730,000 acres last year. Most experts contend another 5-10 percent likely will be abandoned or at best be of marginal quality and yield.
In South Carolina, much of the peanut acreage in the southern end of the belt remained flooded as of late July. Again, the USDA projection of 80,000 acres harvested will likely be too high.
Rast, who buys peanuts in a 60-mile radius of Cameron, S.C., — in the lower end of the state — says most of his growers are in the same 30 percent loss category as he’s in this year.
Harvested acreage in Florida may likewise be affected, because many areas of the Panhandle, the peanut production area of the state, were hit with more than 20 inches of rain in June and July, during the peak of peanut development.
However, in general, most contend this year’s crop looks fairly good in Florida.
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