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Premium Peanut to Invest $64.3 Million In South Carolina

FILE - Raw peanuts
Marco Verch

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) — A grower-owned peanut shelling company said it plans to set up operations in South Carolina's Orangeburg County.

Premium Peanut said it plans a $64.3 million investment that will create 130 new jobs. The new facility will provide more capacity and allow South Carolina peanut growers the chance to be a part of a cooperative model, news outlets reported. The company hasn't determined the new site for the plant.

Founded in 2014, Premium Peanut operates one of the newest and largest peanut shelling facilities in the world. The company began shelling peanuts in January 2016, with about 140,000 tons in shelling capacity. Through investments, efficiencies, and growth, the company now has a plant capacity of 300,000 tons, which is about 10% of the U.S. peanut crop, officials said.

Portions of the new facility are expected to be operational by spring 2022. Premium Peanut is owned by over 400 peanut growers throughout Georgia and South Carolina. They sell peanuts to snack, candy and peanut butter makers in the U.S. and 30 countries, The Times and Democrat of Orangeburg reported.

"We have a problem," Premium Peanut CEO Karl Zimmer said during this week's announcement about the new plant. "We are out of capacity. The market is still growing and the opportunities are still growing."

The plant will allow local farmers to send their peanuts much closer to be shelled, instead of heading to plants in Georgia, North Carolina or Virginia, South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers said.

Peanuts are becoming an increasingly important crop in South Carolina. Farmers grow about 120,000 acres (49,000 hectares) of peanuts now, compared to about 10,000 acres 25 years ago, Weathers said.

Gov. Henry McMaster said Wednesday's announcement is a big win for the state's agribusiness sector.

"We congratulate this great company on their investment that will create 130 new jobs for our citizens, and we look forward to supporting them every step of the way," McMaster said.