U.S. peanut production is forecast at 4.32 billion pounds for 2004, up 4 percent from last year’s crop and up 30 percent from 2002, according to the season’s first estimate from the USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Service.

Area for harvest is expected to total 1.35 million acres, unchanged from earlier estimates but up 3 percent from 2003. Yields are expected to average a record-high 3,198 pounds per acre or 39 pounds per acre more than last year. Planted acres, at 1.39 million, are unchanged from the June estimate but 3 percent above 2003.

Peanut production in the Southeast states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina — is expected to total 2.92 billion pounds, up 5 percent from last year’s level. Yields in the four-state area are expected to average 3,183 pounds per acre or 55 pounds below 2003. (Yield estimates could fluctuate following a complete evaluation of the damage done to Southeast crops by Hurricane Ivan.)

Expected area for harvest in the Southeast, at 918,000 acres, is unchanged from June but up 7 percent from the previous year. Planted acres, at 940,000, also are unchanged from June but up 7 percent from 2003. As of August, peanut pegging in Alabama, at 96 percent, exceeded the five-year average by 12 points. Florida peanuts pegging — at 95 percent — were ahead of average by 5 percent. Georgia peanut pegging — at 99 percent — exceeded the five-year average by 4 percent.

Peanut production for Virginia and North Carolina is forecast at 441 million pounds, up 6 percent from 2003. Yield is forecast at 3,176 pounds per acre, up 50 pounds per acre from last year. Area for harvest is expected to total 139,000 acres, unchanged from June but up 5 percent from the previous year.

Planted acres in Virginia and North Carolina, at 140,000, also are unchanged from June but up 4 percent from 2003. As of Aug. 1, the North Carolina peanut crop had reached 100 percent pegging — 5 percent ahead of the five-year average. Virginia peanuts pegging — at 94 percent — exceeded the five-year average by 13 percentage points.

Peanut production in the Southwest, including New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, is expected to total 957 million pounds, up less than 1 percent from 2003. Yields are expected to average 3,255 pounds per acre for the region, 293 pounds above the 2003 level. A record yield is forecast for Oklahoma.

The Southwest region’s area for harvest — at 294,000 acres — is unchanged from June but 9 percent below the 2003 level. Acres planted to peanuts in the region — at 306,000 — also are unchanged from June but 7 percent below 2003. Peanut pegging in Oklahoma — at 96 percent — was 4 percent ahead of the five-year average. Texas Peanuts pegging — at 88 percent — exceeded the five-year average by 2 percentage points.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com/a>