Final harvest of flue-cured tobacco near Seven Springs, N.C., September 12.
USDA issued its September crop report Wednesday showing that flue-cured production is up a projected 44 million pounds since its August report, for a total current projection of 490.2 million pounds. According to the report, which is based on a farmer survey asking about conditions as of September 1, all that increase took place in North Carolina, where plentiful--but for the most part not excessive--rainfall allowed growers to produce an extra 43.5 million pounds since the August report for a total for the state of 390 million pounds (up 57 percent over 2011). Among the other flue-cured states: The Virginia projection is down slightly from last month for a total of 48 million pounds (up 10 percent from 2012) while the South Carolina projection is about the same as last month at 27 million pounds (up two percent from 2012). Georgia is up 1.1 million pounds since last month thanks to a 100-pound expected increase in yield to 2,400, putting production at 25.2 million pounds (down almost six percent from 2012). Florida doesn't participate in the survey, but Extension tobacco specialist J. Michael Moore tells Tobacco Farmer Newsletter that thanks to Tropical Storm Debbie, production there will be substantially reduced. "About 300 of the original 850 acres planted could not be harvested. Also, the excessive water washed out nutrients so that the yield was off considerably. This is a very nitrogen-deficient crop. It didn't develop a lot of the normal characteristics." TFN will have an estimate of production in Florida as soon as it is available.
Burley production is up too, but not as much. It is expected to total 195 million pounds, up nine million pounds from the August report and up 13 percent from last year. Kentucky and Tennessee accounted for nearly all the increase in the last month. The projection for Kentucky was up 5.7 million pounds at 140.6 million pounds (up 10 percent over last year), while for Tennessee it was up about two million pounds at 30.4 million pounds (up nearly 35 percent from 2011). It seems a little hard to believe, but the crop report projected North Carolina burley production at 3.515 million pounds, which if true would be a whopping 30 percent more than was projected in August. The editor will research this point and try to substantiate it next month. Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio projected roughly the same as last month. No other burley states participate in the survey.
Among other types: Dark fire-cured is projected down two percent at 50.8 million pounds, dark air-cured down seven percent at 14.8 million pounds, Southern Maryland is up 11.1 percent at 6.6 million pounds and cigar types up 14 percent at 8.7 million pounds.
More on alternatives to contracting...
Sealed bids for the best possible price? Big M Tobacco is now selling flue-cured tobacco by way of what it calls a "sealed bid" auction at the Liberty Warehouse in Wilson, N.C. Buyers inspect the bales, mark their bids on a sheet, seal it in an envelope and give it to manager Greg Ray. When all buyers have submitted their bid, Ray opens them, determines the high bid and informs the grower. He has the option of rejecting the bid, but Ray says that has very rarely happened. "We have competition with eight or 10 buyers at each sale, and the sealed bid gives the buyer a lot of incentive to make his bid at the highest level he can afford," says Ray. "We feel this system gives the farmers the best chance at getting the highest price." The warehouse can sell 200,000 pounds per sale. "So far this season we are selling once a week, but we will begin twice a week sales later," Ray says. "Last season, our volume was about 6.5 million pounds." Call Ray at 252-799-6061 for more information.
Where to sell tobacco that doesn't have a home: A new company in Seven Springs, N.C., is providing a new and completely legal avenue for tobacco farmers to sell tobacco that doesn't have a home. Joseph Parker and Mack Grady, who are both associated with the Cureco company in Seven Springs, have formed Whitehall Trading Co. It is already buying tobacco from the current crop (for now, flue-cured only). "The goal of Whitehall Trading Co. is to give the farmer an alternate method of marketing all grades of tobacco, including the lesser-quality grades," says Grady. "But it can't be wet or damaged. It should be in clean and dry condition." He notes that the program Whitehall is following complies with all pertinent regulations. "Our books are clean, and our customers' books will be clean as well." So far, Whitehall's early sales have all gone to a single tobacco company. But Grady and Parker expect there will be more purchasers before the season is over. For more information, call Parker at 252-559-0061.
Buy "A Brief History of North Carolina Tobacco" by Billy Yeargin, from History Press. The days when rural life revolved around tobacco planting and harvest are gone, but many fondly remember when North Carolina was the state of farming, planting and picking tobacco. In this book, historian Yeargin takes readers back to the days when communities were founded and built upon tobacco culture, and when traditions developed as industries were born. For a copy, send $21.99 to 112 N. Webb St., Selma, N.C. For more information, email Yeargin at email@example.com. Also available: A companion work called "Remembering North Carolina Tobacco," also by Yeargin. Retail price is $19.99. Specify which or both books you want and send check or money order, made out to Billy Yeargin, at the above address.