A record 2012 U.S. peanut crop had the industry worried about a huge carryover that would depress prices.

But, say peanut organization officials, strong demand — particularly unexpected demand from China — has helped brighten the picture considerably.

“What’s exciting is that, in a year when we need to sell more peanuts than we ever have before, the Chinese have come into the U.S. market and are buying quantities of peanuts that I would’ve never imagined in my lifetime,” says Bob Parker, the new president and chief executive officer of the National Peanut Board.

“Part of this is being driven by supply issues that occurred as a result of crop problems in India, reducing their ability to export to China. And we’re hoping the U.S. will be able to retain part of the huge Chinese market for peanuts,” he said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association at Hattiesburg.

“We have a record crop from 2012 — a very high quality crop — and this unexpected demand from China will help us find a market for a lot of these excellent U.S. peanuts.”

Parker says he’s “excited about this opportunity to serve the National Peanut Board and America’s peanut farmers. As I look at our plan of work for 2013, it becomes apparent that our overriding mission needs to be centered around improving grower economics — selling more peanuts so growers can get more money, and focusing on production research so they can become more efficient, make higher yields, and reduce input costs.

“These are the factors we’re going to look at with each program we embark on.”

Malcolm Broome, executive director of the Mississippi grower organization, says last year’s crop across the U.S. “was the best in our industry’s history.