Peanut butter, once a staple of every child’s lunchbox, has had a tough time of it in recent years. Out of concern for children with peanut allergies, some schools have banned peanut butter sandwiches while others have gone so far as to ban children bringing school lunches or homemade cupcakes and baked goods, due to not knowing all the ingredients.
Now, following another hot, dry summer from Georgia to Texas, there’s a far smaller peanut crop this year. In fact, the roughly 1.8 million ton peanut crop produced this year is down 13 percent from last year’s and could be, according to the Department of Agriculture, the smallest harvest since 2006. Consequently, the price of peanut butter is going to rise significantly:
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.
Georgia farmers say that a combination of record-setting heat (for the second year in a row) and not enough rain kept some seeds from even geminating in the field. Even when they did, the sprouts (which go back into the ground to produce peanut seed) sometimes burned because the soil was so hot. Fields that were irrigated fared well but farmer Rodney Dawson of Hawkinsville, Georgia, saw those profits diminish as he had to buy fuel to run the irrigation system. He’s expecting to get only about a third of the maximum 3,000 pounds of peanuts per acre that he usually gets in a good year.
Peanuts sold for $450 a ton last year, but will cost $1,200 a ton now. The increases will be felt directly by the consumer and not only in the price of peanut butter. Product lines that rely on peanuts will also see increases in their prices.
So if you need your pb ‘n’ j fix, you might want to get an extra jar or two, as prices are due to increase in November.
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