Groundnuts-All stages of producing peanuts


All stages of producing peanuts to trade this product 1


Groundnuts especially those produced in the 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 percent of world production. Asia accounts for about 70 percent of this amount where the major producers India and China together represent over two-thirds of global output. Other important producers are Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Argentina. In most of the developing countries kernels are used for oil extraction, food and as an ingredient in confectionery products. Following extraction, the residual cake is processed largely for animal feed, but is also used for human consumption. The quality attributes that are important for end uses of groundnut vary among the developed and developing countries. Groundnuts are mainly processed for oil in several developing countries. Even though it is a good protein source, the cake obtained after oil extraction is not utilized to the best advantage. Production of aflatoxin due to the invasion of the fungus Aspergillus flavus to groundnut pod/kernel is a serious problem in the trade of groundnuts in the international market, which has seriously hampered the export business of the developing countries. Therefore, these countries can no longer rely on monoculture in order to support their growing economies.

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 thereby reducing risks and opening new local and export markets. There is a necessity to investigate new opportunities for the use of groundnut as food and confectionery items. Most of the developing countries have poor drying and storage facilities. Under these conditions the seed loses its quality and viability in storage rapidly. The purpose of this publication is to discuss the importance of the post-production system in developing countries and to suggest suitable curing, drying, storage and processing technologies. Advised methods are especially meant for the smallholder farmers and the most diversified uses of groundnut in confectionery items.

  1. Introduction

Groundnut, or peanut, is commonly called the poor man’s nut. Today it is an important oilseed and food crop. This plant is native to South America and has never been found uncultivated. The botanical name for groundnut, Arachis hypogaea Linn., is derived from two Greek words, Arachis meaning a legume and hypogaea meaning below ground, referring to the formation of pods in the soil. Groundnut is an upright or prostrate annual plant. It is generally distributed in the tropical, sub-tropical and warm temperate zones. Ethnological studies of the major Indian tribes of South America document the widespread culture of groundnut and provide indirect evidence for its domestication long before the Spanish Conquest. When the Spaniards returned to Europe they took groundnuts with them. Later traders were responsible for spreading the groundnut to Asia and Africa where it is now is grown between the latitudes 40°N and 40°S (Pattee and Young, 1982).

1.1 Economic and social impact of groundnut

China and India together are the world’s leading groundnut producers accounting for nearly 60 percent of the production and 52 percent of the crop area. India cultivates about 7.74 million hectares and produces 7.61 million tonnes of groundnut with the productivity level of 991.8 kg ha-1. South Africa is the major producer in Africa, while in Latin America almost one half of the total groundnut produced in that region may be credited to Argentina. Among the developing countries Egypt has the highest productivity and capacity to produce groundnuts (Table 1).

In most of the developing countries, the productivity levels are lower than in the United States of America, mainly due to a number of production constraints such as i.) the cultivation of the crop on marginal lands under rainfed conditions; ii.) Occurrence of frequent drought stress due to vagaries of monsoon; and iii.) higher incidence of disease and pest attacks; iv.) low input-use and v.) factors related to socio-economic infrastructure.



Table 1. Groundnut (in-shell) area, yield and production in various developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America during the last decade.


CountriesArea (000 ha)Yield (t ha-1)Production (000 t)
Nigeria1 7981.11 917
China3 6582.69 737
India7 7400.987 609
Indonesia6611.701 159
CountriesArea (000 ha)Yield (t ha-1)Production (000 t)
Latin America and Caribbean  

Source: FAOSTAT, database 1990 to 1998, each figure is average for the period from 1990 to 2000


Especially in the developing countries, groundnut has to play an important role both as oil and food crop. For example in India about 10 kg groundnut per capita are available for domestic consumption. Fat and oil consumption averages less than 5 kg per capita per year. It has been estimated that in the year 2000, approximately 34 million Mt of groundnuts were produced worldwider of which 15 million Mt were produced in China, 6 million Mt in India, 2 million Mt in Nigeria, 1.5 million Mt in United States of America and the rest mostly in other countries. Protein calorie malnutrition (PCM) is a serious problem in the developing world. It is ironic that PCM exist in areas where most of the groundnut is produced. Assuming the level of production of 34 million Mt of groundnut in year 2000, there would be about 6.26 million metric tonnes of groundnut proteins (after correcting for the kernel yield). Thus there should be about 2.6 to 2.8 g of groundnut protein available per capita per day in the world. This translates into approximately 5.5 percent of the total protein requirements of the world. The obvious reason for low consumption of groundnut protein in India is that out of 6 million Mt of groundnuts produced every year, 80 percent are utilized for oil extraction, 12 percent for seed purpose, 2 percent for export and the remaining for edible purposes. The protein rich cake resulting from oil extraction is fed to the animals as protein supplement. The groundnut utilization system in India is shown in Figure 1. The system remains more or less similar in most of the developing countries, with the exception of South Africa.


Similarly in other developing countries, most of the groundnuts are used for extraction of oil for domestic consumption and export. For example, Sudan accounted for 17 percent of the world groundnut export trade. Groundnuts are important component of Nigerian diet and about 5 percent of the estimated 58.9 g of crude protein available per head per day, is contributed by groundnut (Abulu, 1978). In most of the developing countries it provides high-quality cooking oil and is an important source of protein for both human and animal diet and also provides much needed foreign exchange by exporting the kernels and cake. In the literature, groundnut role as cash crop is found to completely dominates its role as subsistent food crop. In spite of groundnut importance to diets in many developing countries and the increasing emphasis on food self-sufficiency, studies on domestic groundnut consumption are especially non-existent.

Figure 1: Groundnut utilization system in India.(Source: Srivastava, 1988)



Countries like South Africa, India, China and Egypt have good potential to utilize the opportunity to export groundnuts or groundnut products to the developed countries. They can earn valuable foreign exchange to improve their economic conditions. In the international market demand for groundnut products is determined by several factors. The primary factor in Africa has been population growth. In Asia, demand has grown due to a combination of population growth, increase in per capita income and urbanization. Expansion of urban areas signals higher incomes, higher opportunity cost of time and therefore greater demand for convenience foods. Groundnut production and consumption in the period up to 2010 is likely to shift progressively more to developing countries. This boost will be seen in all regions with most rapid growth in Asia. Per capita consumption will grow sharply in Asia, slowly in subSaharan Africa and will decline in Latin America. Utilization will continue to shift away from groundnut oil towards groundnut meal, especially confectionery products (Freeman et al., 1999).

1.2 World trade

Over half of the groundnut harvested worldwide is crushed for oil and a substantial quantity of groundnut produced in developing countries is traded in domestic markets. International trade of groundnuts is mainly in the form of in shell (pods), shelled (kernels) and meal (cake). A large trade of confectionery groundnut is also booming in the international market. The major country export groundnut in shell and shelled is shown in the following table (Table 2). Developed countries like UK, Holland, Germany, France, Canada and Japan account for 65 percent of world groundnut demand. However, the major suppliers of groundnut are the United States of America, China and Argentina. The international price of groundnuts is generally decided by the crop size and quality in United States of America. The fortunes for the Indian groundnut (shelled) export are bright and it may likely to emerge as a major supplier of raw and processed groundnut mainly because of its large production base. The production price of groundnut in India is competitive globally. The market price is only 16 percent above the producer price. Except for India and United States of America the price ratio is above 40 percent in the leading exporting countries (Rama Rao et al., 2000). Though India is the largest producer of groundnut in the world, its share in the worldwide edible groundnut market is insignificant.


Table 2. Major exporting countries of groundnut in-shell, shelled, cake and their values.

CountriesGroundnut in-shellGroundnut shelled
Export (Mt)Value (1000 $)Export (Mt)Value (1000 $)
China49 07830 849289 213202 412
India4 3942 30386 49450 276
Argentina753916 068115 541
South Africa4 3783 37025 40616 722
Netherlands6 0895 56481 33579 868
Indonesia1 9921 874206110
Brazil2 1001 679558440
Sudan144737 1703 666
Senegal120799 8235 324
Nigeria18151 277624

Source: FAOSTAT, database 1990 to 1998. Values are the average for the year 1990 to 1999.


Developing countries account for about 90 percent of export trade in groundnut meal. In 1995 to 1997 India ranked first by exporting about 50 percent of groundnut cake in the world followed by another 35 percent of world exports contributed by the Sudan, Senegal, Argentina and the Netherlands. France, Thailand and Indonesia account for more than 65 percent of groundnut cake import. In the 1990s, imports increased sharply in developing countries including Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and China, due to demand for meal from the growing livestock sector (FAO, 1999).


International trade in confectionery groundnut grew steadily from the late 1970s to the mid

1990s. Most of the increase in export share was concentrated in Asia, particularly in China, Vietnam and India, which together currently account for almost half of the world exports. Export shares increased slightly in Latin America and Caribbean due primarily to increased shipment from Argentina, which now accounts for 13 percent of the world export. In contrast, export shares from Africa declined by about one-third between the late 1970s and mid 1990s (Freeman, et al., 1999).


Groundnut oil is thinly traded in international markets, because the major producers like

China, India and the United States of America consume substantial amounts in their domestic markets. This national use reduces the quantities available for export. In the 1960s and 1970s groundnut oil was the major item traded as edible groundnut trade was negligible. Since that period, the reverse has occurred. Edible groundnuts dominate world groundnut trade while groundnut oil is of minor importance. The export trade of oil in developing countries is concentrated in Senegal and the Sudan.


In the 21st century groundnut trade may change as a result of General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations. Under the GATT agreements producer and consumer subsidies as well as trade restrictions must be eliminated or at least reduced. For example, the United States of America maintains import restrictions on groundnuts. A GATT agreement could eliminate import restrictions and open the United States of America’s domestic groundnut market to other countries. India has a self-sufficiency policy for vegetable oil, of which groundnut is a major component. In addition, India has producer subsidies, as do many other countries. Under GATT agreement, these markets would be opened up and costs of production could change. The global groundnut trade estimated at about 0.70 million tonnes per annum is likely to reach 0.85 million tonnes in the next few years (Rama Rao et al., 2000).

1.3 Primary products

Groundnut oil has traditionally been a significant dietary component in several countries in Western Africa. In some countries like Nigeria, Gambia and Senegal, oil extraction has been important rural cottage industry for many years. Industrial processing of oil from groundnuts exists in many countries like, India, Sudan, Senegal, Nigeria and Gambia. Oil extraction at the village level is still quite common throughout the developing countries. The major groundnut oil and cake producing countries are shown in Table 3. Groundnut oil is generally used as a cooking medium and it may be processed into different products. For instance, it is hydrogenated to make vanaspati or vegetable ghee. After oil extraction, groundnut cake is obtained as a by-product. In general, the resultant cake contains about 43 to 65 percent protein and 6 to 20 percent fat plus some B-group vitamins depending upon the method of extraction. Incidentally, NASA of the United States of America has selected groundnut as a possible food for the Advanced Life Support system for extended space missions.

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