The 2004 peanut yield was the best West Texas had made in 10 to 15 years and the 2005 crop will be close to that or slightly better and grades will again be exceptional.

“Yields are holding up very well,” said Rusty Andrews, area procurement manager for Golden Peanut Company in Wellman, Texas. Andrews said harvest was all but complete by November 18.

“Yield is about as good as last year,” he said. “Grade may be better. We usually see some percentage of the peanut crop come in with freeze damage; 1 percent to 5 percent damage is not unusual. Last year we had more than 5 percent with freeze injury because of an early cold snap. So far this year, we have seen no freeze damage.”

Andrews said only a few samples with pod rot were labeled Segregation II. “But we saw a very little of that.”

He says aflatoxin is a non-issue with the 2005 crop. “We haven’t seen it.” Flavor tests have also been good.

Open weather that allowed early harvest helped preserve the crop. “We were wrapped up by mid-November,” Andrews said. “Last year, farmers were still harvesting at Christmas.”

Rex Carr, who manages peanut and cotton crops for Whiteface Farms near Levelland, says the peanuts are off slightly from last year, when he earned the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award. “A late hail hurt yield some,” he said, “but we still averaged two-tons per acre and any time we make two tons, we’re happy with it.”

The only blemish on the 2005 crop is price. Andrews said a lot of farmers planted Valencia peanuts this year to take advantage of a good contract, $600 a ton. “Everything else was cheap,” he said. “We had 18,000 acres of Valencias.”

That compares to 157,000 acres of runner peanuts, almost 48,000 acres of Spanish and 35,000 acres of Virginia peanuts, according to the October Texas Agricultural Statistics Service estimates, which include both irrigated and dryland production.

TASS projections indicate statewide yields slightly above 2004. On an estimated 260,000 acres for harvest, TASS estimates a 3,500-pounds per acre yield compared to 3,420 last year. Total production would top 910 million pounds, compared to 803 million last year.

Shelly Nutt, Executive Director of the Texas Peanut Producers Board thinks those figures are a bit high.

“I think we’ll be close to last year’s production,” she said, “based on what I hear from our growers. But this is a very good crop and the grades are awesome. We had almost perfect weather for peanuts. For one ting, it never got too hot.”

Andrews expects no positive price movements going into the winter. “Shellers don’t expect prices to improve unless the loan drops enough to entice buyers.”

He said a drop in the loan repayment rate could move peanuts into the crush or export market. “If we can option some peanuts out and move them into the market, that could help,” he said. “Otherwise, they will die in the loan and be put up for bid.”

Too many peanuts, he said. “We need a 300,000 ton carryover every year. Last year we had 500,000 tons or more. We may have a 700,000 to 800,000-ton carryover this year.”

e-mail: rsmith@primediabusiness.com