Chinese peanut buyers a good boost for Georgia's agriculture - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Chinese peanut buyers a good boost for Georgia's agriculture

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TURNER CO., GA (WALB) -

Georgia farmers are getting a huge boost from China.

The state's peanut producers expect to set export records in the coming months.

China is suddenly becoming the big buyer of Georgia peanuts.

A delegation of Chinese buyers came to South Georgia last week and bought thousands of tons of peanuts.

More Chinese buyers are expected in the coming weeks.

 This is 500 tons of peanuts stored in a warehouse at the Coverdale Peanut Company, and after a winter of worry, owner Jeff Wilson is now confident they will be on their way to China soon.

 Wilson said "We were worrying that we wouldn't have the warehouse unloaded for the next crop. So it looks like we will."

There were more than one million tons of peanuts over flowing United States warehouses after last year's record crop, and that brought American peanut prices down among the lowest in the world. A drought in India cut China's usual supply of peanut oil, their preferred cooking oil. Suddenly in recent weeks the Chinese bought more than 80,000 tons of peanuts, and they are expected to buy at least 80,000 more tons in the coming weeks.

University of Georgia Extension Peanut Economist Dr. Nathan Smith said "China coming in and purchasing peanuts is certainly a good thing for our economy. To help us work down that supply, that over supply of peanuts."

Now truck traffic is huge, in and out of Georgia peanut warehouses, and the entire peanut industry is suddenly in overdrive to satisfy the Chinese demand.

Georgia Buying Points Association Executive Director Tyron Spearman said "The shellers are running behind. They are operating around the clock, but they can't keep up. Blanching is behind as well. The domestic market has been bumped up because of the Chinese coming to the table."

Georgia exported about 300,000 tons of peanuts last year.   This year it's projected to at least triple. And Georgia ag officials believe now that the market has been established with China, it will continue.

 Spearman said "The quality that Georgia has right now is going to impact the market. And that's what is going to make them come back. They'll come back for more next year."

A sudden shock to the Georgia peanut industry, that will make a huge impact for the state's economy, hopefully for years to come.

Now that farmers are getting rid of some of that  huge surplus of peanuts, some are reconsidering their planting options for this year and may decide to grow more peanuts.

Tuesday more than 100 farmers attended the University of Georgia's Extension Service County Peanut Production meeting in Ashburn.

A near record 735,000 acres of peanuts were planted in Georgia last year.

Experts expected that number would be cut nearly in half this year because of low peanut prices.

Now, with demand and prices increasing. farmers have more options.

Elco Farms owner Willis Collins said "I think the price of corn and the price of cotton is probably going to be a big determination factor in how many peanuts are planted also."

Georgia Peanut Commission Chairman Armond Morris said "We as producers, if we cut our acres back, then that will help to get everything in line. And I think probably the prices that has been offered right now is going to dictate what we as producers cut back."

Most South Georgia farmers had been expected to plant near record amounts of cotton and corn because of the peanut surplus.

This week, for the first time, some peanut contracts have been offered.