Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Looking for a soft place to land

A story is told about the great boxer George Foreman. He once fought another boxer of lesser talent. When the opponent entered the ring and realized he was in great danger of getting knocked out, he asked his trainer for advice. The trainer replied, "Start looking for a soft place to land!" If I had substantial tobacco contracted to U.S. Growers Direct, looking for a soft pace to land is exactly what I would be doing now, because I am losing hope that this company can mount a leaf-buying campaign as ambitious as the one it contracted for with growers. I was hoping to tell you in this newsletter that USGD stations have opened. But as best I can tell, USGD has still not begun receiving leaf. I say this with some uncertainty, because every time I have called their central office, I get put on hold until a recorded message comes on saying I should hang up and call again. That is par for the course for these people. In fact, I have to say this whole experience has been very humbling to me. In the 33 years that I have been reporting on tobacco, I have many times been misled, avoided or lied to by companies who had something to hide. But this is the first tobacco company I have ever dealt with that doesn't recognize that I exist!  Well, enough about my wounded ego. I have been reliably informed that the Douglas, Ga., station did not open Friday, as was planned, while another reliable informant told me the Louisburg, N.C., station had not opened by mid day Friday which makes me think it unlikely that it opened at all. I don't know about the other stations--which I believe are in ClarksvilleVa.,  WilsonN.C.GoldsboroN.C., and Lake CityS.C.--but I am guessing they didn't open either. I am told that a small amount of tobacco had already been sold at the Douglas station, apparently to a single buyer, but that the station ceased buying right after that. By the way, if anyone can correct me on any of this, feel free to call or email me at the numbers below...I can't tell you how much I hate to say this but it is beginning to look like Hurricane Irene was the best thing to happen to the 2011 crop. Thanks to storm losses, I am already hearing that some major buyers have little hope that they will be able to meet their needs from their contracted growers. There will certainly be more of a market for excess tobacco than usual. In my next issue, out in about two weeks, I will provide a list of secondary markets you could turn to. If there is anyone out there who wants to be on that list, email me at chrisbickers@gmail.com, or call me at any time at (919) 789-4631. Alternative markets might just turn out to be the "soft place" you need to land on. Late note:  I just called USGD to give them one more chance to set the record straight. I was referred to a woman. I asked if any of their stations had began purchasing tobacco. She said yes. I asked which ones. She said she would have someone call me. I said I needed to hear from her in an hour. That was two hours ago. What a surprise. [Since that time, I have learned that the Douglas, Louisburg and Wilson stations opened Monday.]

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