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PEANUT BUTTER SALES UP, PERHAPS DUE TO Y2K

When Americans stocked up on essentials to carry them through the uncertainties of the year 2000 changeover, they apparently included peanut butter.

Peanut butter sales climbed by 2 percent to 3 percent in October and November, a period when they usually drop by 5 percent, said Mitch Head, executive director of the Peanut Advisory Board, which represents growers in Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

"We don't really know it was related (to Y2K stockpiling), but there was nothing else going on in the marketplace," Head said.

The unexpected sales surge is one of several positive signs for peanuts, a major Southern crop that was battered in the 1990s by consumer fears about its fat content, a controversy about peanut allergies and a drop in government purchases for domestic food-assistance programs.

U.S. peanut consumption bottomed out at 1.5 million pounds in 1995. Since then, it has been climbing steadily, reaching 1.6 million pounds last year.

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