“We lost some acreage to cotton when the price of it went up,” Spearman said. “Now with the dry conditions this year we are looking at a significant decrease in overall yields.”
In Georgia, where about half of the U.S. peanuts are grown, 2011 marked the hottest summer on record. Cooler temperatures late in August and a bit of rain helped, but the best-looking peanuts in Georgia are in irrigated fields.
Texas is a completely different story. The USDA crop estimate issued Sept. 1 included a notation that 50% of the Lone Star State’s peanuts are rated poor to very poor this year, compared to only 1% in those rating categories last year.
“The peanut plant grows well in dry conditions, but not in a desert,” Spearman said.
On Sept. 19 shelled peanuts for retail were at $1.05 per pound, compared to 46.5 cents per pound on that date in 2010. In light of those prices and the anticipated of the short supply, J.M. Smucker, producer of Jif peanut butter, announced it would be increasing its retail prices by 30% in November.
The USDA predicts 2011 peanut production to be 1.7 million tons, compared to 2 million tons in 2010 and 1.8 tons in 2009.
There won’t be a record crop of pecans this year, especially for Texas growers hit by severe drought conditions. But Georgia, the country’s No. 1 producing state, got just enough rain at the right times to boost yields above the 90 million pounds recorded for the 2009 on-year.
“We’re looking at about 100 million pounds,” said Duke Lane Jr., president of the Georgia Pecan Growers Association and owner of about 3,000 acres of pecan trees at Lane Orchards near Fort Valley, Ga.
“We got about 3 to 4 inches of rain last night (Sept. 22) and that’s really going to help the nuts ripen and open up.”
In the fourth week of September growers of the pawnee variety had already begun harvest in Georgia, and Lane predicted other varieties would be ready a week to 10 days earlier than the traditional mid-October harvest time.
The USDA isn’t scheduled to publish its pecan report until mid-October, but Texas growers already know it won’t have much good news for them.
The Texas Pecan Growers’ Association predicts the 2011-12 crop will be 35 million to 40 million pounds. That’s about half of last year’s bumper crop, according to Cindy Wise, association executive vice president. Wise said a severe freeze and some record low temperatures stressed many trees. The continuing drought finished the job.