The three major players in the U.S. peanut industry say their major investments in new facilities and support — particularly in Mississippi and Arkansas — are an indication of their expectation that new production areas will be needed to meet future demand.

Officials of Birdsong Peanuts, the Clint Williams Company, and Golden Peanuts discussed their outlook for the industry at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association at Hattiesburg.

Clint Williams Company

The Clint Williams Company has made “a large investment” in new facilities in Mississippi and Arkansas “to help insure our peanut supply for the next generation,” says Alan Ortloff, president of the Madill, Okla., company.

“We’ve been losing peanut acres in Texas over the last six or seven years, particularly for runner peanuts, and we’ve been looking for new areas to maintain and increase our supply,” he said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association at Hattiesburg.

“We’re limited in west Texas by the water supply. We’ve been working with that, but nobody could have foreseen the devastating 100-year drought that occurred in 2011 and resulted in probably the worst crop we’ve ever dealt with. This further emphasized to us the importance of diversifying our supply lines.

“We like what we see in Mississippi — fertile land, ample water, and high caliber, professional farmers, who can produce high-yielding, high quality peanuts,” Ortloff says. The company has constructed two new multi-million-dollar buying points in the state, one at Clarksdale, the other at Greenwood.

“These are state-of-the art facilities, with oversize handling, loading, and unloading equipment,” he says. “We can unload a semi-trailer in about 7 minutes. These are by far the largest peanut warehouses in the U.S., and we think in the world. Each will hold 25,000 and 26,000 tons of peanuts.”

That makes a total of 13 company owned buying points, Ortloff says. All the rest are in Oklahoma and Texas. The company has three commission buying points, one each in Texas, Oklahoma, and Pocahontas, Ark., which was built last year.

“We buy over a very large area, stretching from west Texas into Arkansas and Mississippi, over 850 miles wide. All our peanuts are transported to Madill.”

The Clint Williams Company, like others in the industry, is still trying to work out from under a 2012 crop that “was by far the largest in U.S. history — and one that had everyone scared to death a few months ago about how we would market all those peanuts,” Ortloff says.

Last year’s 3.37 million ton crop was more than 600,000 tons above the previous record of 2.7 million tons in 2008, and over 1.5 million tons more than 2011’s drought-shortened short crop of 1.83 million tons.

But an outlook that was on the dismal side has been brightened, he says, by “something phenomenal that has happened in recent weeks and really made a difference to our industry” — significant purchases by China.

India, which had been shipping the majority of its peanuts to China, cut its peanut exports by two-thirds. Reasons included a below-normal crop, new food safety standards, and an improving economy, which created more demand by India’s own population.