U.S. peanut production is expected to total 2,130,850 tons for the 2004 growing season, up 3 percent from last year's crop and up 1 percent from the last estimate, according to USDA.

Few adjustments are expected in this final estimate, although growers had until Jan. 31 to place peanuts in the loan.

The production of peanuts in the United States for 2004 totals 2,130,850 tons, up 3 percent from last year’s crop and up 1 percent from the November estimate.

Planted area in the United States, at 1.43 million acres, is up 6 percent from 2003. Harvested area totaled 1.39 million acres, also up 6 percent from 2003. The U.S. yield per harvested acre averaged 3,057 pounds, down 102 pounds from 2003.

Record high yields were reported in New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia.

Production in the Southeast states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina — totaled 1,432,700 tons, up 3 percent from 2003. Area planted in the region, at 1 million acres, is up 14 percent from 2003. Harvested acreage, at 972,000 acres, was up 13 percent from 2003. The average yield in the Southeast was 2,946 pounds per acre, 292 pounds below last year.

Breaking out the numbers state-by-state, Alabama growers harvested an average yield of 2,800 pounds per acre from 199,000 acres. Florida producers harvested an average yield of 2,800 pounds per acre from 130,000 acres. In Georgia, the average yield-per-acre was 3,000 pounds from 610,000 harvested acres. South Carolina growers boasted a record yield of 3,400 pounds per acre from 33,000 acres.

Production in the Virginia-North Carolina area totaled 230,500 tons, up 11 percent from 2003. Planted acres, at 138,000 acres, are up 2 percent from 2003. Harvested acres, at 137,000 acres, are up 3 percent from last year. The average yield per harvested acre in the V-C region was 3,365 pounds, up 239 pounds from 2003.

North Carolina harvested a record average yield of 3,400 pounds per acre from 105,000 acres. Growers in Virginia also recorded a record average yield in 2004, with 3,250 pounds per acre from 32,000 acres.

The Southwest peanut crop, including New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, totaled 468,650 tons, down 2 percent from 2003. Planted acres, at 292,000, are down 12 percent from last year. Harvested acres, at 285,000, are down 11 percent from last season. Yield in the tri-state area averaged 3,289 pounds per acre or 326 pounds above 2003.

New Mexico growers harvested a record average yield, at 3,500 pounds per acre from 17,000 acres. Oklahoma also saw a record yield in 2004, with 3,100 pounds per acre from 33,000 acres. Texas growers harvested an average yield of 3,300 pounds per acre from 235,000 acres.

In years past, a 2-million ton crop would mean a surplus of peanuts, says Nathan Smith, University of Georgia Extension economist. However, the demand side of the market has been very encouraging for peanuts, he adds. This past year, domestic food use rose by more than 9 percent.

“The beginning of the 2004-2005 marketing season has started off well, and USDA now projects food use to grow by more than 7 percent. The total peanut consumption in 2005 is projected to increase by 5.5 percent,” says Smith.

The economic situation for peanuts, he says, suggests that prices to producers should remain the same if not improve. The economic situation in other commodities, however, will affect peanut acreage and prices in 2005, he adds.

“Factors that may encourage more peanut acres are higher fertilizer prices, higher seed costs for cotton, corn and soybeans, and the threat of Asian soybean rust. This could put downward pressure on peanut prices to producers,” says Smith.

Producers, he says, will have to weigh the outlook for peanuts as well as cotton, corn and soybeans when peanut contracts are offered for 2005. “Given the current trends, it is expected that Georgia will increase peanut acres in 2005 unless the other markets recover with a spring bounce.”

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com