China is itself a huge peanut producer, but demand far outstrips domestic supply.
Senegalese Agriculture Minister Moussa Balde said China has been the main buyer of Senegalese peanuts since 2014, when the two countries signed a deal.
The trade is also rising. Senegal exported 100,000 tons of peanuts to China in 2015, according to China’s embassy in Dakar, rising to 200,000 tons last year.
But the four Senegalese peanut-processing firms that rely on local production are suffering the fallout.
Sonacos, the largest state-owned processing company, did not manage to buy the 150,000 tons it was hoping for, company head Modou Fada Diagne said.
Senegalese essayist Adama Gaye — who has written about Africa-China relations — said the country risked getting stuck as a simple provider of raw materials without profiting from the added value.
The government should install oil mills to capture part of the “peanut manna,” he said, “instead of the crumbs paid by wild buyers”.
But the positive effect on farmers has been undeniable, with Balde pointing to prices that were “never imagined”.
“One million producers are happy,” Balde told local media.
“It is true that 1,500 jobs might be threatened in the oil mills,” Balde told local media, adding, however, that the scale did not compare.