As tight as supplies are here, there appear to be no substantial uncommitted inventories of flavor flue-cured anywhere else in the world. The volume of flue-cured produced in Brazil in 2013 was just slightly more than in 2012, said Universal Leaf in its recently issued estimate of world leaf production. It was about a full 14 percent less than in 2011. In Zimbabwe, our other major competitor in producing flavor flue-cured, auctions ended in July. I don't have the final statistics, but press reports indicate that growers would fall a few percentage points short of the target set by the national tobacco board. I think we can reasonably derive from this news that there will be no large inventory of flavor flue-cured that manufacturers can turn to if they come up short here. Surely, these factors will exert further upward pressure on prices here, which will be good news, unless the price gets so high that manufactures have to substitute something else.
Observations from individual states:
- In South Carolina, my old friend Extension agronomist Dewitt Gooden tells me that he and his colleagues have heard enough about the USDA projection--repeated as recently as August 12 in the August Crop Report--that S.C. flue-cured growers planted only 9,000 acres. He thinks they planted at least last season's acreage--about 12,000--and may have planted a little more. Dewitt held off making an estimate of production just yet. But there certainly seems reason to expect a boost in the national crop from the Palmetto State.
- But not from Georgia. Extension sources continue to think that USDA way overestimated planted acreage in that state. Instead of the 15,000 acres that USDA proposes, they think plantings are closer to the 10,000 acres that were planted last year.
- Virginia flue-cured volume is definitely up this year, but again my sources say that the USDA estimate of 52.9 million pounds is way too high. One says, "I don't see it going much higher than 47.5 mil-lion pounds."And a closing observation: Tobacco buyers are getting so anxious for leaf that one of them placed an ad in Sunday's Raleigh News & Observer. He probably won't place it again. "Wanted," it said. "Flue-cured tobacco. Buying all stalk positions & grade indexes..." "I only got two calls, and they just wanted to check the price," Steve Nelms of Castalia, N.C., told me when I called him 252-904-8775. His facilities are located 11 miles east of Louisburg, N.C.. But he is still going to buy tobacco from this crop. "Flue-cured might be down 35 percent," he says. "I am seeing a lot of leaf that is good quality but thin." Could buyers get desperate for leaf by the end of this season? "They are sort of getting desperate now," he says. But he for one is determined to be competitive. "My prices are as good as anyone else," he says. For more information, call Nelms at