Asia the top destination market in 2022
The Port of Savannah remains the nation’s busiest gateway for the export of peanuts, with volumes growing 52 percent over the past five years.
“We’re proud to support American agribusiness, and Georgia farmers in particular,” said Griff Lynch, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority. “It’s a significant partnership, because agriculture is the state’s largest industry, and Savannah is the East Coast’s busiest exporter of U.S. farm products.”
Peanut exports expanded from 12,000 twenty-foot equivalent container units in 2018 to more than 18,000 TEUs last year at GPA. Joe Boddiford, chairman of the Georgia Peanut Commission, said he expects the state’s peanut production to increase 5 to 10 percent this year, as a dip in cotton prices has growers increasing land used for peanuts.
Thirty-five peanut shellers and logistics providers use the Port of Savannah to reach more than two dozen global markets. Asia was the hungriest region for the peanut shipments in 2022, with Vietnam, China and Indonesia the top three destinations. China has also been an enthusiastic market for pecans exported via Savannah. However, GPA’s global trade in pecans has dipped because the state’s orchards are still recovering from the effects of Hurricane Michael in 2018.
The Port of Savannah’s largest peanut exporter is third-party logistics provider Network America Lines.
“For us being a small, family-owned company, we’ve done big volumes out of the Port of Savannah and really have nothing but good things to say about it,” said NAL Vice President Tom Hendricks. “For our truckers, it is very easy getting in and out of the terminal. There is a certain ease of doing business in Georgia that we enjoy.”
Hendricks said Transatlantic trade is the most reliable for U.S. peanut exports.
“The peanuts to Europe are a steady flow, and have been steady for many years. It’s a well-established trade between the U.S. and North Europe,” Hendricks said, adding that the Netherlands is Europe’s largest consumer of American peanuts. “Really, the wildcard – and it’s been this way since 2012 – has been China.”
He said China produces five times as many peanuts as the U.S., but is still a net importer, because of the popularity there of cooking with peanut oil.
“When China books, their bookings far, far outweigh the European bookings, but they are not steady,” he said. “Over the past few years, China has been a good buyer of U.S. peanuts, and during the first quarter of this year, there has been good demand.”
But the Chinese appetite for high-quality U.S. peanuts has been spotty, as the nation has sometimes turned to other producing countries based on commodity prices. Most peanuts exported to China are processed for oil and other products, where in Europe, peanuts are used most often used in confections and snacks, Hendricks said.
As for GPA’s national market share of peanut exports, the Port of Savannah’s location near Georgia’s 4,000 peanut farmers is a key benefit.
“You reduce your trucking costs greatly,” Hendricks said. “Most of our production is coming from Southern Georgia, Alabama, and Northern Florida. The ocean freight is in most cases far lower than the trucking costs, so proximity to the port is a major factor.”
According to the latest information from the Georgia Peanut Commission, Georgia farmers produced more than half the nation’s peanuts in 2022, at more than 1.45 million tons. Peanut farmers harvested 680,000 acres in that year, with a yield of 4,250 pounds per acre, according to the commission. There are peanut farms in 77 of Georgia’s 159 counties.