| The Humble Peanut Provides Heroic Opportunities for Asia Region Agribusiness


Groundnut – or peanut – is commonly called the poor man's nut.

It is an important domestic oilseed and sustainable food crop for many developing countries. Globally, it has ready access into developed countries for a wide range of food types and confections.

Groundnut is native to South America, (in fact the oldest known archaeological remains of groundnut pods found in Peru have been dated to about 7,600 years old). But today peanut is widely grown across many other regions of the world, particularly Asia and Africa. It is generally distributed in the tropical, sub-tropical and warm temperate zones where it grows equally well as a runner or small shrub.

Groundnuts, especially those produced in developing countries, have been used traditionally since the origin of humanity. It is rich in oil and protein, and has a high-energy value.

  • developing countries account for nearly 95% of
    world production
  • the Asia region alone accounts for approximately 70% of this amount, where the major producers India and China together, represent over two-thirds of
    global output
Groundnuts are predominately processed for oil – although in many growing regions it also finds uses as a primary food or in confectionery products. The residual cake following oil extraction, is largely used as a protein supplement in animal feed. In most developing countries it provides high quality cooking oil and is an important source of protein for both human and animal diets.

Risks and Opportunities for Peanut Production

Even though it is a good protein source, the cake obtained after oil extraction is not utilised to the
best advantage.

Production of aflatoxin due to the invasion of the fungus Aspergillus flavus to groundnut pod/kernel is a serious problem for trade of the product in the international market. Ultimately this seriously damages the export business of many developing countries, and they can no longer rely on monoculture in order to support their growing economies. New plant varieties, and new fertiliser practices are therefore needed to overcome some of these setbacks if the crop is to survive as a predominant source of income.

Under current conditions, crop dependency has made producers vulnerable to losses because of the lower prices paid for the pods and kernels.

It is, therefore, imperative for them to diversify their production and create added value through processing. This action will reduce risks and potentially open new local and export markets. There is also a distinct case for investigating new opportunities for the use of groundnut as both food and confectionery. Most of the developing countries have poor drying and storage facilities, and under these conditions the seed very rapidly loses its quality and viability, so there are many issues to be addressed.

Therefore one of the major points to arise from this dilemma is the importance of the post-production system in developing countries, and to state the importance of suitable curing, drying, storage and processing technologies. If these challenges are addressed the small-scale farmers, who currently rely on peanuts as a source of income, will grow their businesses and remain viable players in trade. Attending to crop nutrition needs is also an imperative because strong, healthy plants produce better quality product.

Source: FAO of the UN

Snapshot of Worldwide Production and Trade

China and India together are the world's leading groundnut producers. They account for just over 60% of world production with nearly 60% of the total agricultural land area globally dedicated to this crop.

The following chart shows the world's top 10 producers of groundnut in 2015.

The Export Market

Developing countries account for approximately 90% of export trade in groundnut products.

Of the world's top ten exporting countries :
  1. China
  2. India
  3. Argentina
  4. South Africa
  5. Netherlands
  6. Indonesia
  7. Brazil
  8. Sudan
  9. Senegal
  10. Myanmar
China, India, Argentina, Brazil and Indonesia combine to corner the majority of the export market.

In the Asia Region

These markets, and particularly those in the Asia Region, are continuing to grow, going from strength to strength because of concerted efforts in harnessing farming efficiencies, modern crop nutrition and protection practices driven by the higher economic returns for the produce and a greater share of agricultural land being given over to the growing of peanut.

However a important fluctuating trend is now being noted in Asian economies.

More and more of the peanut production is remaining at home, with imports increasing sharply in countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and China because of the demand from the growing livestock sectors for groundnut meal as supplement to stock-feed.

In Australia

Early Days

Peanuts first arrived in Australia with the gold rush and were planted near Cooktown (QLD) in the 1870s. They were brought by Chinese prospectors using seeds and clippings that accompanied them from China. It is said that Australian agriculture took very little interest in the peanut as a crop at first, with the total amount grown in the country by 1900 estimated at less than 11 acres. However, over the next 20 years peanut crops slowly began to expand. By 1920 the acreage had expanded to 272 acres (again all in Queensland) and total annual production estimated at 123 tonnes per year.


Because of the fluidity of the current economic markets for peanut, considerable opportunity exists for Australian peanut growers.

Australia's production statistic by global comparison – at about 48,000 tonnes annually is quite small. The industry is however, well established in several growing regions throughout Queensland, and concerted efforts are being made to extend and reinvigorate the crop into the Northern Territory. As a crop it also grows well in parts of northern New South Wales. Trials have previously been held in parts of Western Australia and South Australia with indeterminate success.

As a percentage of world production Australia is very small indeed, at about 0.3%.

Facts & Figures about
Location and Operations

  • almost all of Australia's peanut crop is grown in
    Queensland – est. 98%
  • the main growing regions are on the
    Atherton Tablelands near Cairns (north QLD),
    Emerald (central QLD), Bundaberg and Childers
    (south QLD)
  • although in recent years areas closer to Brisbane and the Gold Coast have been cultivated
  • three main varieties are grown in Australia, being Virginia (large kernels generally for snackfoods), Runner (medium kernels usually for biscuits and confectionery) and Spanish (small kernels generally for peanut butter and oil)
  • harvesting is a staged process involving several phases including cutting and digging, threshing, drying and curing, then blanching and sorting
  • the peanut bush is fully utilised, there is no wastage at all
  • approximately 120 manufacturers in Australia use peanuts for snackfoods, biscuits, confectionery and peanut spreads

Opportunity Comes with High Quality Produce

Most developing countries have not, up until this point in time, given much attention to the quality of the produce, its main use being only for oil and burning. However, the value-adding qualities, together with the trading values of this product are now being recognised. As such, the quality parameters fixed by importer countries for the international trade of groundnut kernels and cake need to be applied, with only the highest, healthiest quality nut being acceptable.

For example, the general guidelines for the quality of groundnut pods and kernels include things like :

Australia's sophisticated processing plants and technical knowledge have been developed over many years, and this places it in a good position to compete at the high-quality end of the international market.

At times, Australia imports somewhere in the vicinity of 5,000 – 8,000 tonnes per year to backfill supply, but with good seasons it can support the domestic market. However with consumption of peanuts growing at the rate of 3% each year, a niche in the market could exist for growers that is worthwhile considering.

Outlook for the Region

Trends and outlooks for the major Asia region markets and Australia are as follows :

Country Outlook
India Expected to flourish and increase over coming years. This is due in large part to a rise in the amount of land area being allocated and planted. Much of this has come about because of a downturn in cotton crop, with farmers moving to groundnut as it is perceived as being less difficult to grow and manage, with greater economic returns. Economically it could increase by as much as 16-20% annually.
China Expected to increase over coming years. The outlook for the coming season is forecast to rise to 16.9 million tonnes, up 2.4% on the previous growing season. Increased land area is driving some of this growth, together with a shift from corn to peanut because of trade opportunity, higher economic returns, better understanding the management of the crop and better uses for what was previously considered
Indonesia Expected to increase at a rate of approximately 5% annually over the next five years. Currently approximately 500,000 million tonnes of unshelled groundnut for human consumption is produced. Strategies are afoot to elevate peanut to a major crop status. Much work still needs to be done to improve and support the scientific adaptability of local plant varieties plus better education and understanding of appropriate and targeted crop nutrition and protection practices.
Myanmar Expected to remain steady for the foreseeable future at about 2.0 million tonnes annually. It has important status as an economic crop and accounts for approximately 60% of GDP. Groundnut agriculture employs almost two-thirds of the current workforce, many of these women. Farming methods are still largely traditional (slash/burn/reclamation cycle) and modern fertiliser methods have been slow to enthuse, however education and scientific understanding is becoming more accessible
Australia Expected to remain steady with a slow and slight upwards trajectory over coming years. There is declining land area being allocated to peanut, even though the domestic market is still generally satisfied by local production. Prices are expected to remain at the current 'above the average' level. When imports are needed for the AU market, Argentina is the main supplier, although this could change with new trade agreements with Asia. The potential for Australia is with the high oleic peanut
oil market.

RLF Understands the Importance Of Peanut to Asia

RLF's agronomic teams in Australia and China regularly conduct education and demonstration seminars showing growers how to achieve a high yielding fertiliser management program for peanut.

In China, in particular, RLF has been joined by several agrichemical companies so that the dual pathways of crop nutrition and crop protection can be addressed. Pest, fungal disease and weed infestation remain a high crop management issue for growers of groundnut. Momentum is building for this type of information and understanding the science of the plant better, and these programs are being replicated in all major growing regions across Asia.

The groundnut occupies an extremely important position in Asia’s crop and oilseed production.

It not only guarantees the safe supply of oil for both human consumption and fuel, but also is one of the most important trading crops for Asia. There is strong international competitiveness for this crop, so opportunity for successful trade outcomes exist. With the recent improvement of many of the region's aspirational and lifestyle qualities, the demand for peanut oil and peanut products increases with
every year.

Groundnut is generally perceived as a hardy crop.

It is characterised as having great adaptability, it endures drought well, has water-logging and barren tolerance and delivers a relatively high economic benefit.

Beyond that, the shift from more traditional crops such as rice, maize (corn) and cotton in some countries – because of pricing downturns and/or crop management issues – has made peanut a viable alternative crop investment for small-scale growers. Therefore, expansion has recently been noted in the agricultural land area being allocated for the planting of the peanut crop.

But RLF understands too, the factors that impact this crop.

Things such as the ageing of peanut varieties, the unreasonable use of pesticide and fertiliser, the destruction or degradation of natural soil fertility and ecosystem, all coupled with the effects of climate and/or natural disasters have added to the factors that endanger the long-term production of peanuts. In many ways, unless irrigated systems are readily accessible all peanut growers rely heavily on natural conditions and rainfall.

So, to achieve stable yield, higher yield and a good sale price has therefore become the top priority for the current 'crop' of peanut growers who are all very keen to address these new challenges. This is where the scientific research and engineered technical solutions of the RLF product range can play a significant role in bringing about the efficiency and economic changes needed.

RLF Technical Advice for the Peanut Grower

Working Together in the Field

A generalised foliar program for peanut is considered very beneficial – and if other relevant information such as paddock history, soil test and leaf analysis is made available to an RLF agronomist or technical team member, the program can be modified for an even better response.

Key Characteristics and Requirements

Peanut (Arachis hypogaea L) belongs to the pea (legume) family.

It has adapted to warm climate that requires around 600mm rainfall annually, or 6 mega litres of irrigation per hectare. In dry seasons, irrigation needs to be applied weekly at 30mm to 40mm. The plant growth can be either upright or prostrate depending on the variety, and has a long root system. Peanut leaves have 4 leaflets (tetrafoliate). Some varieties of peanuts are perennial and are used for groundcover or feed.

Inoculation of nuts by Rhizobia at planting, ensures that roots form an adequate number of nodules to fix atmospheric nitrogen, making peanut optimum pH at around 6.

RLF Products Especially for Groundnut

Generally it is accepted that a foliar program with an RLF Ultra Foliar product will enhance the quality of the crop significantly and lift yield, and the following foliar products can be used with confidence :

Crop Specific Foliar Legume Plus

Legume Plus is a Crop-Specific Fertiliser with a nutrient delivery system (NDS) that increases the efficiency in product uptake through the leaf.

It delivers 12 essential nutrients all contained within a High-analysis Broad-spectrum Solution (HBS). It is the latest in crop-focused nutrition and is designed specifically for legume crops.

This means that it will work better and provide greater results for legume crops. Developed using plant science, RLF has engineered a special range of Ultra Foliar products and Legume Plus is one of these, giving maximum benefit to legume crops.

Legume Plus ensures that the NPK-inputs (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) – together with other farm practices such as herbicide and fungicide use – achieve maximum gain. Legume Plus gives the plant the resources it needs to grow strong. The complete, specially formulated Broad-spectrum nutrient package it delivers directly to the plant, supports the crop's growth and strength by ensuring that NKP fertilisers and other herbicides and fungicides are buffered during uptake.

What Our Customers Say

Foliar Product on Peanut | Ultra Foliar V Control

"The larger root mass is clearly seen in this image – which supports the strong and healthy plant in accessing soil nutrients and greater access to soil applied fertilisers."

Foliar Product on Peanut | Ultra Foliar V Control

“The end result is clear in this image. More peanuts per plant and looking bigger. The mass of the leaf is easily distinguished between the two items."
Foliar Product on Peanut | Ultra Foliar V Control

"This is one of the most clear indications of how an Ultra Foliar product sorts out and handles the effects of nutrient deficiency. By the time the yellowing of the control crop would have been seen, it is most likely that no actions taken (at this late stage) would have fixed the problem in time to achieve the crop result of the Ultra Foliar."


Groundnut, also known as Peanut, is 'mother nature's snack food'. It has the highest protein content of any fruit or vegetable, are high in fibre and are cholesterol free. It is a staple for many small-scale farmers, and underpins the health and economic viability of millions of people throughout the world.

Peanuts are the fruit of a legume, meaning they are in the pea and bean family, so technically not a nut at all. It is an annual crop lasting one season only, and nothing from the crop is wasted. In so many ways it is an incredible plant.

Groundnut can be used in the following ways as :

  • nut-in-shell
  • salted or roasted kernels
  • oil for cooking
  • fuel for heating
  • manufactured in peanut butter
  • manufactured in biscuits,
    cakes and health foods
  • stockfeed
  • garden mulch (from the shells)
  • a seed crop for other growers

Peanuts can be a profitable crop, particularly in adequate rainfall areas or with irrigation.

Generally, under natural, rain-fed conditions the yield is variable and the quality may suffer in adverse seasons. Irrigated crops in some regions can achieve better margins per hectare and more uniform outcomes. However, modern farming methods, involving good crop nutrition practices are having an equalising effect for this crop delivering increased yield with healthier produce.

The outlook for groundnut is positive and the trend across the Asia region to cultivate more land area in many of their growing regions already appears to be taking hold.

We know that the world demand for peanut products is growing at a very fast pace, so modern farming practices will play an important role in driving this industry forward.

It is true, that considerable innovative change will need to be made in some regions with respect to the infrastructure required to support a thriving peanut industry, and to give small-scale growers more ready access to processing plants.

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