(“Peanut Futures: Marketing for Profitability,” an exclusive editorial series sponsored by DuPont Crop Protection, will examine recent developments in U.S. and international peanut markets. This is the second story in the series.)

U.S. peanut producers are truly competing in a world market, a recent example being the exuberance exhibited when China bought 300,000 tons of U.S. peanuts in 2012.

“The U.S. had plenty of peanuts in 2012, they were priced right, and they were of an excellent quality,” says Marshall Lamb, research director of the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., and advisor for the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards.

“I’m afraid the opportunity we had with China has stopped, and we’ll have to look at other markets as we move forward,” he says.

World export share has changed somewhat over the years, says Lamb. “In 2002, China owned 50 percent of all peanut exports moved around the world. A lot of them were what they called ‘hand-picked, select cuts.’ Then, in 2007, China dropped to 37 percent and then to 21 percent in 2012.

“During this time, China was selling a lot of its commodities to raise money. They started developing their own country along with a middle class that wanted to consume products inside their country, so they started exporting less. During this same time period, India has remained pretty much the same with about 15 percent of the export share. Argentina has remained about the same, and the United States has gone from 12 to 20 percent between 2007 and 2012, but that 20 percent might be an anomaly,” he says.

The major world peanut players are China, the U.S. and India, says Lamb. “India ramped up exports and then dropped off is because the monsoon rains didn’t come to the crop in 2011, and they couldn’t export those peanuts to China in 2012. India is harvesting a good crop now, and they’re moving them into China.”

The one opportunity the U.S. may have this year could come from Argentina, he says. “One of their major production areas is suffering through a drought during their primary pod-fill period, and a significant drought could delay their crop. We don’t yet know how much of that crop was damaged. Most all of Argentina’s peanuts are exported to Europe. But if they have issues with aflatoxin, they won’t be accepted into Europe. It’s not a big market, and it would help us only a little.”

Exports will be down this year due to the China factor, says Lamb, but exports are growing now in Mexico and Canada, with Canada surpassing the U.S. in terms of per-capita consumption of peanuts.