Climate

Record Heat Causes Peanut Butter Prices to Skyrocket: “I Don’t Remember A Year” We Had “So Little Moisture”

The drought conditions should sure that have plagued farmers this growing season have taken a toll on the area’s peanut crop. Withered blooms, burned pods and few undeveloped peanuts define this year’s peanut crop for many area farmers.” (Photo/Jaine Treadwell)

First, we heard that climate change could decimate the chocolate industry. Now it’s peanut butter. Sending lovers of Reese’s Pieces into a panic, the recent spell of record-setting heat has caused “startling price increases,” according to a piece in the Wall Street Journal:

Wholesale prices for big-selling Jif are going up 30 percent starting in November, while Peter Pan will raise prices as much as 24 percent in a couple of weeks. Unilever would not comment on its pricing plans, but a spokesman for Wegmans Food Markets said wholesale prices for all brands it carries, including Skippy, are 30 percent to 35 percent higher than a year ago.

Kraft Foods Inc., which launched Planters peanut butter in June, is raising prices 40 percent on Oct. 31, a spokeswoman said.

The US Department of Agriculture estimates the current spot price for a ton of unprocessed Runner peanuts, commonly used in peanut butter, at about $1,150 a ton, which is up from about $450 a year ago. A pound of shelled peanuts, meanwhile, would fetch $1.20 currently, one broker said, up from 52 cents a year ago.

Chalk up peanut butter as yet another potential causality of climate change. With heat waves getting worse, and the historic Texas drought expected to last well into the decade, the quality of the peanut crop may continue to get worse:

Scorching heat, especially in Texas, singed many peanut plants as they developed, leaving more peanuts destined to be processed into oil, rather than the edible quality that is shelled and turned into peanut butter. Only 38 percent of the US peanut crop was rated good or excellent last month, down from about 60 percent a year ago.

As with any crop, the challenges facing peanut farmers begin and end with the weather. In Georgia, the leading US peanut producing state, the planting season was the driest in memory for John Harrell, 56, a sixth-generation peanut farmer.

“I don’t remember a year that you didn’t catch a shower or had so little moisture in the ground to get the seed up,” said Harrell.

The dismal peanut yields this mean consumers will soon be paying more for peanut butter products at the supermarket — adding to the list of gastro-delights like French wine, Italian pasta and German beer that are threatened by a changing climate.

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11 Responses to Record Heat Causes Peanut Butter Prices to Skyrocket: “I Don’t Remember A Year” We Had “So Little Moisture”

  1. John Tucker says:

    Aflatoxins are a worry in drought/heat stress. In corn/animal feeds/milk products also.

    Although aflatoxins are known to cause cancer in animals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows them at low levels in nuts, seeds, and legumes because they are considered “unavoidable contaminants.”( http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002429.htm )

    “There are also quality concerns because of aflatoxin mold that occurs in seasons we have hot and dry conditions,” ( http://www2.dothaneagle.com/news/2011/sep/23/peanut-yields-still-air-expected-trend-down-ar-2456375/ )

    ( ddr.nal.usda.gov/bitstream/10113/15085/1/IND86009393.pdf )

  2. John Tucker says:

    I imagine this needs to be readdressed as trending for distributed extreme events seems to be more of an issue in climate studies.

    Influences of climate on aflatoxin producing
    fungi and aflatoxin contamination ( http://ddr.nal.usda.gov/bitstream/10113/9851/1/IND43997383.pdf )

  3. Raul M. says:

    Biochar.be seems a nice primer is the advantages of using biochar to improve soil conditions. One of the info spots indicates that biochar helps the soil keep water close to the surface foe the plant use. Another point is that biochar may be readily made from the leftovers of crop production. Lots of information on biochar in farming to help the farms and then the consumers.

  4. Raul M. says:

    Sorry, that was for the plant use.
    Some also point to how to capture the heat from biochar production to make electricity.
    Hmmm a mobile biochar machine that has a mobile permit for grid connection could improve the soil conditions while giving a nice credit on the utility bill.

  5. Joan Savage says:

    Peanut butter is called the Poor Man’s Protein, so a doubling or tripling of its cost leads to the question of what else is available as protein to eat.
    Unfortunately other historically inexpensive protein sources like oatmeal, grains and beans take more preparation than spreading a dollop on bread or just licking a spoonful.

    Next year’s long term forecast does not offer relief for peanut-growing areas. http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/
    Georgia and Texas drought map at present. http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/

  6. John Tucker says:

    Also here is a study associated with flooding and toxins in rice – I make a big deal of it because aflatoxins are carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic, hepatotoxic and immunosuppressive, and indeed regarding their carcinogenic effects are said by some to be among the most carcinogenic substances known.

    Harvest after floods and storage areas affected by flooding/damp conditions foster growth of the Aspergillus as well as other fungal species.

    Detection of Aspergillus spp. and aflatoxin B1 in rice in India ( http://130.88.242.202/medicine/Aspergillus/articlesoverflow/19028301.pdf )

    Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or liver cancer, is the third leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, with prevalence 16–32 times higher in developing countries than in developed countries… … Aflatoxin may play a causative role in 4.6–28.2% of all global HCC cases. 25,200–155,000. ( http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/723422 )

    Counting the other problems these are associated with I think they are arguably a major worry associated with climate.

  7. catman306 says:

    Thanks for alerting Climate Progress about aflatoxins.

    Aflatoxins may even cause psychological changes in people eating contaminated butter or packaged peanuts. The latest rumor is that the peanuts that they give you on airlines may have enough aflatoxiins in them to cause problems for the air passengers. Sometimes when combined with 8000 foot cabin pressure and an alcoholic drink or two, some people get very agitated for seemingly unknown reasons. It might be the peanuts.

  8. Ominous Clouds Overhead says:

    The old rule of thumb for survival was that you could survive 72 hours on nothing more than water and a jar of peanut butter. Looks harder w/ nothing but the water…

  9. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Oh well. There goes the satay sauce along with the rice, the fish and a banana for the kids, ME

  10. I just wrote a blog post about the consequences of peanut butter shortages for working class people and vegetarians.

    http://katfriedrich.wordpress.com/2011/10/19/peanut-butter-climate-change-and-social-justice/