Reports continue to come in of the yield loss caused by the June and July rains. And some areas report a degree of recovery since the precipitation slowed down. USDA will issue its August projection later this month, and I will come back to you as soon as I can analyze it and get a better handle on what the production prospects really are. For now, let me share reports I got Friday from the Northern and Southern ends of the tobacco belt.
Kentucky--A month after the event, farmers were still reeling from the torrential rains of July 4, 5 and 6, when eight to 10 inches of rain fell over most of the tobacco-producing areas. "This was probably the most widespread damage I have seen from a single event in my career," said Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist, at the time. When Tobacco Farmer Newsletter spoke to him Friday, he continued to be pessimistic about the volume Kentucky growers will be able to produce, suggesting that abandoned fields and reduced yield might result in a 25 percent loss. One practice that could help: Proactive use of sprays for leafspot diseases.
Florida and Georgia--There was an abundance of rain in these states too but the crop seems to have fared better. J. Michael Moore, Extension tobacco specialist for Georgia and Florida, said many Florida growers have made all but their last harvest, producing good usable leaf that is grading well. Yield will be a little short because of the rain, but nowhere near as much as in the burley states. This could wind up being a good crop for the Floridians. Georgians have had a harder time. In the Willacoochee and Nashville area, 56 inches of rain has fallen so far this year, more than it normally gets in one year, and other areas had similar experiences. "Besides drowning, we have had a good bit of nitrogen loss, and also damage to the root systems," Moore said. "Yields will be down and quality reduced." But he is putting off making a production estimate for a little longer. The loss will probably be less than what is projected in the burley states.
The auction season begins: Piedmont Warehouse of Danville, Va., conducted the first auction of the season with a sale on July 30, selling 100,000 pounds of flue-cured for an average price of $1.73 a pound. "We opened a little early to help farmers who needed it," said Jim Eggleston, sales manager. "We hope to sell 200,000 to 250,000 pounds at each sale later." Every pound attracted a buyer, and the farmers were happy with the price they received. But they will probably be happier at this week's sale, since prices from contracting companies reportedly rose almost literally overnight after the first one. That was reflected the next day, when a new auction company, Carolinas Tobacco Auctions of Lake City, S.C., sold 130,000 pounds of flue-cured for an average price of $1.93 per pound. "I would be glad to have another sale like that," said Jimmy Lynch, one of the owners of Carolina Tobacco Auctions. "It proved that the auction for tobacco works the way it should." Carolinas will hold sales at 10 a.m. every Wednesday through the season. The location is 662 So. Ron McNair Blvd., Lake City, S.C. For more information, call Lynch at 843-687-5753. Piedmont will hold sales at 10 a.m. every Thursday. The address is 301 Trade Street, Danville, Va. For more information, call Eggleston at 434-489-4292.
The Big M Warehouse will hold its opening sale at 10 a.m., August 7, and every Wednesday after that. The address is 1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C. For more information, call Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033 or Greg Ray at 252-799-6061 or the switchboard at 252-206-1447.
The Old Belt Tobacco Warehouse in Rural Hall, N.C., will hold its opening sale of the season on Tuesday, August 13, at 10 a.m. Sales will be held each Tuesday till the end of the season. Tobacco can be delivered starting today. The address is 1395 Old Belt Way, Rural Hall. For more information, call Dennis White at 336-416-6262.
Tobacco tours coming up in the next 30 days
Cross Creek Seed Inc. will hold a variety tour, Wednesday, August 7, 9 a.m. at Seven Springs Baptist Church, 5924 NC 55 East, Seven Springs, N.C. Visitors will caravan to the nearby farm of Mack Grady where they will be able to see the new variety CC 143, which features good resistance to black shank (both races) and to Granville wilt, along with yield and grade indexes comparable or better than K 326. The tour will end with lunch. Call Cross Creek Seed at 877-922-7333 if you plan to attend.
The Murray, Ky., Twilight Tobacco Tour will be held on Tuesday, August 13, at the West Farm of Murray State University off St. Rte. 1660 (Robertson Rd.) starting at 5:30 p.m. It will conclude with supper around 7:30 p.m. For information, call Bob Pearce at 859-221-2465.
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