Consumers should be prepared to shell out a bit more for peanut butter soon.
Another hot, dry summer in key producing states and competition from more profitable crops like cotton have significantly shrunk the U.S. peanut crop this year.
The tight supply means consumers will soon pay more for yet another grocery staple. U.S. farmers are expected to produce roughly 1.8 million tons of peanuts this year, down nearly 13 per cent from last year, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Department of Agriculture.
Assuming that estimate holds, it would be the smallest harvest recorded since 2006. Peanut butter producers already have plans to hike prices for peanut butter significantly in the next few weeks.
Those who package nuts for snacks say they are watching their competitors to determine whether price hikes will be necessary.
The J.M. Smucker Co., which makes Jif peanut butter, plans to raise its wholesale prices 30 percent in November.
Kraft Foods Co., which launched its Planters peanut butter in June, is raising prices 40 percent on Oct. 31. A spokesperson for ConAgra Foods Inc., which makes Peter Pan peanut butter, was not immediately available to comment but multiple media outlets report that the company plans to raise its prices as well.
Unilever, which makes Skippy brand peanut butter, would not comment specifically on its pricing but said that the company is watching the commodities market very closely and will make pricing adjustments as needed.
A miserable drought and scorching temperatures followed in key peanut-producing states like Georgia and Texas. For some farmers this was the second hot summer in a row.
Peanut farmers had to delay planting this spring because of the heat, which cut their production. Others saw the plants they'd put in the ground scorch during the summer when the shoots, which poke back into the ground to produce the peanut seed, burned as they touched the hot soil.
Georgia, the largest peanut-producing state in the country, saw record-breaking heat and a lack of rainfall that prevented some peanut seeds from even germinating in the field. Other plants that did grow were baked in the hot summer sun, producing poor-quality nuts or sometimes nothing at all.