“All in all it doesn’t feel like there is a huge over-supply of peanuts. If the export market continues to grow at its current rate, there won’t be an over-supply, but counting peanut dollars before peanuts are sold is a lot like the old adage of counting eggs before they are hatched.”

In 2012, peanut growers across the South — literally from Arkansas to the Carolinas set all-time records for production. And, they set these production records at a time when peanut supply was well ahead of demand.

Last year peanut growers in the Southeast averaged 4,335 pounds per acre — nearly 1,000 pounds per acre more than 2011 totals. The record breaking yield came from 1,198,000 acres — the most acres planted in the region in the past decade.

“Production used to be split at about 60-20-20 among the Southeast, Virginia-Carolina belt, and the Southwest. Now, the Southeast grows about 85 percent of all the U.S. peanuts — that’s a big concern for me,” Spearman says.

A hurricane or drought or flood or any type unexpected weather during the growing and harvesting season used to be much less of a concern. Now, a bad growing season in the Southeast can have a huge impact on U.S. production.

And, Spearman adds, the percentage of peanuts grown in the Southeast is probably going to increase more, because production in Texas continues to dwindle.

For peanut growers in the Southeast, Spearman says they should follow the same advice he used to get from his mama — “be patient.”

“Growers shouldn’t make decisions on how many peanuts they are going to plant right now. The longer they wait, the better idea we’ll have on how many peanuts we need from the 2013 crop,” Spearman says.

“If the current Chinese buying frenzy continues, the demand for our peanuts could be dramatically different than they are now (Feb. 1).

“With the potential for high yields, even close to last year’s record production, increased demand and prices could make peanuts one of the most valuable crops for farmers in 2013.

“The other side of that coin is to not plan on planting more peanuts right now, because there are no contracts and no guarantees that the ever-changing export market will continue to grow.”
rroberson@farmpress.com