Farmers check out new machinery at the S.C. AgriBiz Expo,
Florence, S.C., in January.
BURLEY: The weather has been very cold in Kentucky for about a month, says Roger Quarles, Georgetown, Ky., burley farmer. "In some cases, stripping has been slowed by the temperatures. And also some was stripped too wet in late December. But we got ours sold the first week of January." But because of the unusual conditions, Quarles wasn't able to harvest one acre of the 39 he planted. "But I would describe this (overall) crop as very good except where there were devastating floods. Certainly, it sold for one of the highest averages I have experienced." Processing report: The Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association has begun processing its 2013 purchases, and Steve Pratt, general manager of the cooperative, is pleased with what he is seeing. "This was a good-looking crop, with good color," he says. "It's light, and we are finding it hard to get as many pounds into a box as we would like. But it is a better crop than we expected." This crop hasn't performed quite as well in nicotine tests as hoped, says Pratt. "But the results are acceptable." Some of this crop has been sold at auction, and BTGCA has bought some at auction too. "But we are moving to contracting most of our needs," says Pratt. "We are already seeing interest in contracts for 2014." Contracting has barely begun in the burley belt. Pratt expects the marketing season to wind up in early March.
FLUE-CURED: Contracting has not developed much momentum so far, says Rick Smith, president of Independent Leaf. Farmers who want more tobacco are finding it hard to acquire, and new growers are getting no encouragement as yet. "But hopefully everyone who wants a contract will have one at the end," says Smith. He says it is too early to estimate the average price being offered for contracts other than that it started at about the same level as a year ago. One factor holding up contracting: There is an undetermined amount of 2013 flue-cured still "on the shelf"; that is, in the hands of dealers but not yet committed to a manufacturer. "That tobacco will enter the trade sooner or later, but it may have something to do with the slow pace of contracting we are seeing now," says Smith...The crop in Brazil is reportedly short and maybe a little washed out, so Smith doesn't see it as being any more competitive than normal with U.S. flue-cured. "There will be no advantage to dealers to going there," he says...Don't count on a $2.17 average in 2014, Smith tells growers. The low production accounted for much of the strong price in 2013. "The price was a lot higher than it would have been if it had been a big crop," he says. The 2013 crop has been recorded as a high quality crop, and rightfully so, but that tends to overlook the problem it had of low nicotine.
The world still demands quality flue-cured leaf, and that will continue to favor American growers, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. But he is not sure farmers could take advantage if the market were to seek a big increase in flue-cured plantings. "We produced 550 million pounds in 2009, the most in recent years, and I think we would have a hard time producing more than 600 million pounds now."
Curing capacity a problem everywhere. A major obstacle to increasing flue production would be the limited curing capacity. "To cure any more, we would have to look at buying new barns," says Vann. "All the old ones that were lying around have been pulled back in service if they were useable. The investment required for these new barns is very high." But the greater energy efficiency of the barns now on the market might take a little of the sting out of a purchase...Another reason expansion in N.C. will be difficult: "We don't have enough land for a good rotation in the I-95 corridor," says Vann.
Burley growers maximized their curing capacity in 2013. "If we plant more, we may see some outdoor curing facilities built," says Darby Montgomery, owner of the Big Burley Warehouse of Lexington, Ky. "But that would be the extent of it. I don't see any new conventional barns going up"...Quarles hasn't seen any conventional barn building recently, although curing space is tight. "If we need it, we could easily use temporary curing structures. But I think burley would have to get a further price increase to generate that."
GAP MEETING DATES in February and March
To learn more about the GAP Connections program please call 865-622-4606 or visit www.gapconnections.com.
- February 12: Surry County/Yadkin County, N.C. Location to be determined. Phone: 336-371-0189. Starts at 10 a.m.
- February 13: McSwain Extension Ctr., 2420 Tramway Rd., Sanford, N.C. Phone: 919-775-5624. Starts at 10 a.m.
- February 11, Noon. Wayne/Pulaski County Meeting, Wayne County Extension Office, 255 Rolling Hills Blvd., Monticello, DL _CES_WAYNE @EMAIL.UKY. EDU, 270-
- February 18, 6:45 p.m. Bath/Montgomery Counties Commodity Night, Bath County Extension Office, 2914 Hwy. 60, Owingsville Ky. Contact: Gary Hamilton, DL_CES_BATH@EMAIL.UKY. EDU or 606-674-6121.
- February 20, 6 p.m. Estill and Powell County Meeting, Estill County Extension Office, 76 Golden Court, Irvine, Ky. Contact: Eric Baker, 606-723-4557 or DL_CES_ESTILL@EMAIL.UKY.EDU.
- February 21, 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). Louisville Area Tobacco Meeting, Shelby County Extension Office, 1117 Frankfort Rd., Shelbyville, Ky. Contact: Corinne Belton, 502-633-4593 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- March 5, 1 p.m. Dark Tobacco Meeting, Christian County Extension Office, Hopkinsville, Ky. Contact: 270-886-6328.
- March 7, 1 p.m. Dark Tobacco Meeting, McLean Co. Ext. Office, Calhoun, Ky. Contact: (270) 273-3690.
- February 18, 2:30 p.m. Burley, Appalachian Fair Grounds, Bldg. 1, Lakeview Street, Gray, Tn.
- March 3, 4:30 p.m. Dark, Montgomery/Stewart County Tobacco Meeting, Montgomery Co. Ext. Office, Clarksville, Tn. Contact: 931-648-5725.
- March 13, 7 p.m. Middle Tennessee Research & Education Center,1000 Main Entrance Drive, Spring Hill, Tn. Contact: Joe Beeler at email@example.com.
- March 27, 6 p.m. Burley, Grainger County Meeting, Ag Pavilion, 280 Bryan Rd., Rutledge, Tn. Contact: Anthony Carver, 865-828-3411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- February 24, 1:30 p.m. (Eastern Time). Scott County Tobacco Meeting, USDA building, 656 S. Boatman Rd., Scottsburg, Indiana. Contact: Megan Voles at 812-752-8452 or email@example.com.
- February 24, 6 p.m. (Eastern Time). Switzerland-Jefferson County Tobacco Meeting, Switzerland County Purdue Extension Office, 708 West Seminary St., Vevay, Indiana. Contact: Kyle Weaver:812-427-3152 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- February 12, noon. Harry's Bar B Que, Claxton, Ga. Contact: Mike Dollar at 912-739-1292 or email@example.com.
- February 13, 10 a.m. Colquitt County Extension Office, Moultrie, Ga. Contact: J. Michael Moore, 229-386-3006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- February 14, noon. Baxley, Ga. Contact: Shane Curry at 912-367-8130 or email@example.com.