Surplus of peanuts makes for a merry Christmas

Published 10:57 am Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shannon Bicknell, Peanut Patch gift shop manager, left, with employee Jean Felts and customer Jim Hansford of Franklin. -- STEPHEN COWLES | TIDEWATER NEWS


FRANKLIN—A record-breaking yield of Virginia peanuts in 2012 means there’s more to give this Christmas.

This year has seen the best yield ever, with 4,200-plus pounds to the acre, according to Dell Cotton, manager of the Peanut Growers Cooperative Marketing Association in Franklin. He said the 4,000 mark was surpassed only once — in 2011, but not by much.

“This year every state out of the nine or 10 that grow peanuts had close to or record yields,” said Cotton. “We planted too many acres and made too many on what was planted.”

Southampton County Agriculture Extension Agent Chris Drake said the Runner and Virginia/Carolina peanuts are each in overabundance.

“The type we grow is V-C for the most part in Southampton County,” he said. “They are used for in-shell and gourmet type products we see sold at many of the local peanut retail outlets in our area.”

Drake said that growing record yields could be balanced by poor contract prices for 2013. Contract offerings in 2012 have ranged from $650 to $750.

“Many economists and experts suspect the contract offerings for V-C type peanuts will be much less than that next year. Some predict contracts as low as $425 per ton,” he said.

This surplus is an opportunity, Cotton said.

“Looking close to home, we’re very unique where we live,” he said. “There are a number of small businesses where peanuts are what they’re all about. You won’t find many gourmet peanut processors. We’re very fortunate to have them. They make our area very well known.”

“It stands to reason that they have plenty of product they’d like to sell for sure,” Cotton added.

“One small way the local consumer can help this situation is to buy fresh, local gourmet peanut and peanut products for Christmas gifts,” said Drake. “Peanuts are high in protein, low in cholesterol and taste great.”

He recommended going to the Virginia Carolinas Peanut Promotions website for a list of retailers.

Peanut Patch Shoppe’s owner Judy Riddick said peanuts are very popular at Christmas time.

“They’re a local gift that people can send to family and friends out of the area because people like to receive local things, particularly Virginia-made things,” she said. “People love peanuts, and it’s a nice business gift to their customers.”

At Belmont Peanuts of Southampton, President Patsy Marks said the season is certainly a busy one.

“There’s a tremendous increase during the holiday season,” Marks said. “People love the chocolate-covered peanuts. We salt them before covering.”

Gift assortments in three different flavors are among the products.

“The whole premise of our business is based on gift-giving,” said Lynne Rabil, president of Hubs Peanuts, which got its start in 1954.

The 20-ounce salted containers remain the most popular, Rabil said.

To fill the orders, workers have put in overtime for several weeks.

“We don’t ever stop taking orders,” said Rabil, noting peanuts go as far as Japan and South Korea.

“A year like this, it’s easy to find the supply,” she said.” Last year was difficult. The pipeline had dried up, though there was a nice crop locally. It’s a good thing to have contracts to even things out. There’s been an increase in every one of our items.”