SC Peanut Growers, Buying Stations Talk Crop Loss After Hurricane

December 13, 2016 10:21 AM

Hurricane Matthew created a second year of tough harvest conditions for South Carolina farmers. Producers say the damage in the northeastern part of the state was mostly concentrated in cotton and peanuts.

A new batch of runner peanuts are disappearing into the pit unloading at Pee Dee Peanut, a buying station in Mullins, S.C.

It’s a sight co-owner Dupree Atkinson is thankful he’s seeing, considering tough back-to-back harvests for peanut growers.

“This is probably the most historic rain event I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime,” said Dupree Atkinson. “This year coupled with last year is a difficult hardship for farmers around here.”

The southeast experienced extreme heat as well as a hurricane in 2016.

“We didn’t lose a lot of soybeans; we lost peanuts and cotton from this flood,” said Johnson Atkinson, a relationship manager with Arbor One Farm Credit.

Growers like Neal Baxley couldn’t dig in time.

“It’s really disappointing on the peanuts,” said Baxley. “We had such a promising crop.”

In September, Baxley said his area in Marion County received 15 inches of rain. When Hurricane Matthew hit a month later, that same area saw 20 inches in 24 hours.

While 2016 hasn’t been easy, the hardships started back in 2015. Growers in northeast South Carolina had too much rain and it didn’t end until December. This year, growers say the rain stopped after Matthew.  

In 2015, the peanut crop experienced a quality issue, according to Dupree Atkinson. In 2016, the problem was quantity.

“30 to 50 percent of our peanuts were going Seg. 2,” said Dupree Atkinson. “Farmers were losing $300 a ton. Whereas this year, farmer who were picking peanuts before the storm were averaging right at 3,800 [pounds] to two tons to the acre.”

The two tough years is a reduction for buying stations. Dupree Atkinson said Pee Dee Peanut is experiencing roughly 38 percent loss of peanut volume this year. It was roughly 20 percent loss of volume last year from expected yield.

“If you take out last year, this station was buying pretty much two tons of the acre,” said Dupree Atkinson. “This year, we’re going to buy 2,800 pounds of the acre.”

As trucks continue to unload, Dupree Atkinson is thankful but hopeful for a new season.

“There’s just something different about the breed of a farmer that makes them want to go and do and challenge of trying again,” said Dupree Atkinson.

It’s a feat growers continue to tackle year after year and hope Mother Nature cooperates.

The area had so many Seg. 2 peanuts last year which were unmarketable, however, China made a huge purchase which helped clean the market out.

Atkinson said one peanut loss per square foot is a 40-pound loss per acre of runner peanuts. He said the station saw those losses this year. 

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