“Incredible, mind-boggling yields” for U.S. peanut producers last year left the industry with a worrisome carryover going into 2013 — which could bring acreage cutbacks of as much as 40 percent this year, says Marshall Lamb.

“There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that we need a decrease in production for 2013,” the research leader of the USDA/Agricultural Research Service National Peanut Research Laboratory at Dawson, Ga., said at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association at Hattiesburg.

“The question is: What do we need to produce in 2013 in order to get back to a reasonable carryout that is healthy for the industry? We had a record carryout of roughly 1.35 million farmer stock tons going into 2013 — some analysts say as high as 1.5 million.

“We need to get back to a reasonable carryout level, which would equate to production this year of about 1.5 million farmer stock tons. With an average 3,400 pound U.S. yield, that would suggest 900,000 acres for 2013, or about a 38 percent decrease from last year and a 30 percent decrease from the 2008-12 average.

“I’d like to see a bit more acreage than that as a buffer in case weather or other problems should cause yields to drop to around 3,000 pounds.”

The saving grace for last year’s record crop has been demand, chiefly unexpected purchases from China, Lamb says.

“China has come into the market because they couldn’t get the peanuts they usually buy from India, so they’ve purchased significant amounts of U.S. peanuts, which has been great for us in terms of dealing with our over-supply.

“Demand in the export market has basically doubled compared to a year ago, due mainly to China’s purchases. China crushes about 80 percent of the peanuts they import, which results in about half oil, half meal. They’ve been buying peanuts from India, which are often contaminated with aflatoxin, and crushing concentrates the aflatoxin in the meal.