The first estimate of U.S. peanut production for 2003 shows a considerable increase over last year's crop in addition to a record-breaking yield. Production is forecast at 3.96 billion pounds or 19 percent more than the 2002 crop.

Yields are expected to average a record-high 3,102 pounds per acre or 5444 pounds per acre above 2002 levels. Planted acres, at 1.32 million, are 5 percent above earlier estimates but 3 percent below 2002.

Production in the Southeast states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina — is expected to total 2.61 billion pounds, up 37 percent from last year's level. Yields in the four-state area are expected to average 3,070 pounds per acre or 637 pounds more than in 2002.

Expected acreage for harvest, at 849,000 acres, is up 6 percent from the June estimate and up 8 percent from the previous year. Planted acres, at 864,000, are up 6 percent from the June estimate and up 8 percent from 2002. As of July 27, peanuts pegging in Alabama were at 87 percent, exceeding the five-year average by 11 percentage points. Florida peanuts pegging, at 90 percent, were ahead of average by five percentage points. Georgia peanuts pegging, at 88 percent, lagged the five-year average by four percentage points.

Virginia-North Carolina production is forecast at 379 million pounds, up 15 percent from 2002. Yield is forecast at 2,850 pounds per acre, up 750 pounds from last year. Area for harvest is expected to total 133,000 acres, up 11 percent from June but down 15 percent from the previous year.

Planted acres in Virginia-North Carolina are up 12 percent from June estimates but down 16 percent from 2002. As of July 27, the North Carolina peanut crop had reached 85 percent pegging or five percentage points behind the five-year average. Virginia peanuts pegging, at 50 percent, lagged the five-year average by 32 percentage points. Heavy spring moisture with few drying days during planting season delayed the Virginia peanut crop.

Southwest peanut production — New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas — is expected to total 976 million pounds, down 10 percent from 2002. Yields for the region are expected to average 3,307 pounds per acre or 260 pounds above the 2002 level. Record yields are forecast for Oklahoma and Texas as peanut acreage continues to move out of dryland production, leaving a greater percentage of higher yielding irrigated acres.

The region's acreage for harvest, at 295,000 acres, is down 2 percent from earlier estimates and 17 percent below the 2002 level. Acres planted to peanuts in the region are down 2 percent from June and down 19 percent from 2002. Peanuts pegging in Oklahoma, at 96 percent on July 27, were eight percentage points ahead of the five-year average. Texas peanuts pegging, at 80 percent, exceeded the five-year average by one percentage point.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com