ATLANTA (AP) - A combination of drought, disease and an economic shift to other crops could make Georgia's peanut harvest one of the smallest in more than two decades and increase the price of peanut products.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that in a normal year, Georgia produces about 1 million tons of peanuts, or roughly half the country's total harvest. This year's production totals will not be known until the harvest has finished. But a good harvest would likely produce 650,000 to 700,000 tons of peanuts, said Don Koehler, head of the Georgia Peanut Commission.
The latest forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts nationwide production will be down roughly 17 percent this year, said Scott Sanford of the U.S. Farm Service Agency.
One problem is a continuing drought across the state. University of Georgia agronomist John Beasley met with beleaguered peanut farmers in Baker County last week. They have not received enough rainfall, despite recent rain showers. Extreme heat combined with insect and other diseases also hurt the crop.
"Too little, too late," Beasley said, speaking of the recent rain. "What I'm seeing today we needed six, eight weeks ago."
Further reducing the peanut crop was a decision by many farmers to plant fewer peanuts and more corn and cotton since those commodities were fetching better prices.
Those factors could increase the price for products that use peanuts, such as peanut butter. The maker of Jif, the biggest-selling peanut butter, has said it expects to raise prices 30 percent in November because of "significantly higher peanut costs."