Peanut Butter Trumps Nuts as South Africans Spread 18% More

(Bloomberg) -- Higher prices are hurting South Africans’ demand for whole peanuts, but citizens are set to spread 18 percent more peanut butter than they did four years ago, an industry body said.

Consumption of the nuts is set to drop to 25,000 metric tons in the 2017 season, 15 percent less than four seasons earlier, Wandile Sihlobo and Tinashe Kapuya, economists at the Agricultural Business Chamber, said in an e-mailed report. Meanwhile, people will eat 25,300 tons of peanut butter, about 18 percent more than in the 2012-13 season.

Producer prices for choice-grade peanuts have climbed 82 percent to 15,000 rand ($1,112) a metric ton from 2013. A 400-gram (14-ounce) jar of peanut butter has increased about 9 percent over the same period, data in a separate Agbiz e-mail showed.

“Over the years, the growth of middle class generally brought some changes in household consumption patterns and that has been part of this growth trend,” Sihlobo said by phone Tuesday.

South Africa had the lowest rainfall last year since records began more than a century ago as the El Nino weather pattern decimated crops of everything from corn to wheat. While the middle class in the continent’s largest economy has grown and eats more processed foods, the government has struggled to create employment and address poverty, with almost 27 percent of the nation’s working-age population being without jobs.

Small Harvest

Local farmers may harvest 29,285 tons of groundnuts next season, according to the Crop Estimates Committee, 53 percent less than a year earlier and the least since 1947, South African Grain Information Service data shows. The area of 22,600 hectares is the smallest since records started in 1936. The country will probably import 30,000 tons of peanuts in the 2016-17 season.

Mozambique, Malawi, India and the U.S. have been the leading suppliers to South Africa, which exports to countries including the Netherlands, Mozambique, Belgium, Egypt, and the U.K., Sihlobo said in February. China and the U.S. are the biggest providers to Japan.