ATLANTA (AP) — Choosy moms and dads may be packing more PB&J in lunches this winter, when the cost of a jar of Jif or Skippy is expected to fall even as other grocery prices rise.
Peanut butter prices soared last year after a drought and high heat in the Southeast, where most peanuts are grown. This year, that region got a break while farmers in most of the rest of the United State suffered huge losses in the widest drought in decades.
Farmers are now expected to bring in two-thirds more peanuts than they did in 2011. That could mean a price drop at the grocery store.
“After last year’s small crop, we saw peanut butter prices on average rise 30 percent or more,” said Patrick Archer, president of the American Peanut Council. “With this year’s excellent crop, the supply and demand should come back into balance and peanut butter prices should come back to a more normal level at the retail level.”
Peanuts are already considered a staple of the American diet, with the average U.S. consumer eating about 6 pounds of peanut butter and other peanut products each year, according to estimates from the American Peanut Council, an industry trade group. But peanut butter could become even more attractive as strong global demand, high prices for livestock feed and a huge sell-off of cattle and other animals in drought keep pushing up meat prices.
U.S. farmers are expected to produce more than 3 million tons of peanuts in 2012, according to figures released Oct. 11 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s a 66 percent increase over 2011, when growers produced more than 1.8 million tons.