POCAHONTAS, Ark. (AP) — Pocahontas based Arkansas Grown Highest Quality Peanuts contracted 8,200 acres of peanuts last year with farmers, co-owner Kyle Baltz said. In 2013 the number of acres will likely drop.
"We had a tremendous peanut crop this year in Arkansas and around the country ... we hope farmers will continue to grow peanuts ...," Baltz said. "I'm certain our farmers will grow less this year."
Each year in the United States about 2.2 million tons of peanuts are consumed, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that in 2012 about 3.4 million tons were harvested. China bought 350,000 tons of peanuts, and Baltz said that will help with the surplus, Baltz said,
Many farmers got $700 for every acre dedicated to peanuts last year. A farmer has to make at least $500 an acre for it to be worth it, Baltz said. It's not clear how much companies will pay farmers for peanuts this year.
Half the peanuts bought by Ag HQ are being held in its warehouse, Baltz said. The primary growing areas here are Lawrence and Randolph counties, but farms in Mississippi and eastern Greene County are expected to grow peanuts this year.
Unlike crops such as rice, peanuts have a short shelf life. Peanuts can only be warehoused for a year before they go bad, officials said.
About 18,000 acres were dedicated to peanuts in 2012 in Northeast Arkansas. There were many farmers who wanted to grow them, but couldn't.
Some of those farmers might make up for the acreage losses with farmers who've already grown them, Baltz said.
Peanut companies began a concerted push into Arkansas in 2010. Disease, drought and other factors in states such as Georgia and Texas forced companies to find new regions to grow the crop.
Fluctuations in demand affect every crop, and one reason peanut companies came to Arkansas was to avoid farmers who only grow peanuts when prices are high. Besides the farmers, the additional laborers needed got jobs and helped to spur the local economy.
Baltz hopes farmers and public officials will see the benefits of peanut farming and make long-term plans to keep growing the crop.
"It has created a tremendous income for farmers, truckers and other workers in the area," he said.
Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, http://www.jonesborosun.com