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Price of peanut butter reported going up

Peanut butter, a staple of school lunches and

Peanut butter, a staple of school lunches and afterschool snacks, may soon be more expensive. (Aug. 17, 2011) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A staple of school lunches nationwide may soon be in short supply and what is available will cost more, the result of good cotton prices and bad weather, according to an article on the website Harvest Public Media.

"We have quite a peanut shortage this year," agricultural economist Tiffany Arthur is quoted as saying. Arthur works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency, which makes emergency loans to farmers. "Things are snowballing and prices are sharply rising."

There is no need to panic, Arthur said in the article, just be prepared to pay more. The peanut shortage is the result of a smaller-than-usual planting and bad weather. The wholesale price has roughly doubled during the past year. In the coming weeks, that price increase is expected to be passed along to consumers in the form of peanut butter that could be 25 to 40 percent more expensive.

Peanut broker Richard Barnhill says in the article that the first problem is "We didn't plant enough peanuts." Basically, farmers swapped peanuts for cotton, which was commanding a much higher price.

"The second factor that happened was we have not gotten the rain," Barnhill says. "We're in a La Nina: hotter and drier in the Southeast and in the Southwest."

Compounding the problem was plant disease that hit peanuts that survived the drought making them inedible.

"The shortage won't just hit snack giants like Jif," the article says. "Popular grocery store chain Trader Joe's, which makes its own line of organic peanut butter, has discontinued its line. When it does eventually hit shelves again, customers will pay about 70 cents more per jar, Trader Joe's director of public relations Alison Mochizuki said in the article.

The shortage also comes at a tough time, Arthur says, adding that peanut consumption normally increases during hard times, like now. Since the recession started in 2008, peanut butter consumption has jumped by 10 percent, the USDA says. Peanut butter consumption usually goes up just 1 or 2 percent in a regular year.


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