Crunch Time for Peanut Butter

TriplePundit is proud to be taking part in Blog Action Day OCT 16 2011

It might just have to be PB&J without the PB for a while, or less of it or maybe the cheap grocery store house brand.

The high protein staple of low-budget eaters from college students to fixed-income oldsters—peanut butter—is getting way more expensive.

That’s because, according to articles in the Wall Street Journal, Think Progress and elsewhere, a hot dry summer decimated this year’s peanut crop, sending prices for the legume through the roof—meaning less PB for the roof of your mouth where it properly belongs—and forcing peanut-butter brands including J.M. Smucker Co.’s Jif, Unilever NV’s Skippy and ConAgra Foods Inc.’s Peter Pan to impose hefty price increases.  Peanut prices have gone from $450 a ton to $1,150 a ton this year. A pound of shelled peanuts meanwhile currently costs about $1.20, up from 52 cents a year ago.

Wholesale prices for 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. Prices for Skippy are 30-35 percent higher than a year ago. Kraft Foods, which launched Planters peanut butter in June, is raising prices 40 percent on Oct. 31.

With heat waves getting worse, and the historic Texas drought expected to continue well into the decade, the quality of the peanut crop could continue to deteriorate. Searing heat, especially in Texas, singed many peanut plants as they developed, the news reports said, leaving more peanuts destined for processing 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.

And while peanut oil is very good for cooking, it’s just not the same when slathered onto bread with jelly.

But wait, this situation gets even worse, especially if you’re thinking about chocolate as an alternative snack.

A report from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found that West Africa, where half of the world’s cocoa supply comes from, is becoming less and less suitable for cocoa production as climate change brings higher temperatures and changing rainfall patterns, according to a recent news item from Think Progress.

This means a shortage of chocolate also looms!

So thanks climate change. If you happen to love chocolate more than peanut butter itself, and vice versa, this is getting very personal. These are indeed dismal and alarming developments and a food crisis of major proportions. Just in time for World Food Day and Blog Action Day.


[Image Credit: peanut_butter_jelly_sandwich. Flickr Creative Commons]

writer, editor, reader and general good (ok mostly good, well sometimes good) guy trying to get by

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