WILL THE 2014 CROP
EVER GET HARVESTED?
There was definitely still burley in the field when growers gathered in Springfield, Tn., last Tuesday for the annual meeting of Burley Stabilization Corporation (BSC). The reasons were much the same as those affecting the Eastern and Old Belt flue-cured crops: Excessive rain late in the season had delayed harvest, and excessive production will be a problem to market. "It appears the burley crop will be about 205 million pounds, but the demand is only estimated at 185 millions pounds," said Daniel Green, BSC chief operating officer. "We may have 20 million pounds of excess tobacco." Finding a market is going to be the problem for some farmers. "Some have reportedly found some alternative markets, and BSC will try to help by buying some extra, but that will have to be a limited amount." The bottom line: Green fears that some late tobacco and non-contract tobacco may go at a lower price.
One bright spot, but not very bright: There has been a lack in recent crops of low quality grades of burley popular with value customers, many of whom have had to turn to overseas sources, said Green. "Some demand has gone unfulfilled. There may well be significant leaf of this type in this crop, and there is a demand for it." But the price for this is not likely to be high.
Perhaps 10 percent of the Tennessee burley crop remained in the field as of Monday of this week, said Tennessee Extension specialist Eric Walker. No doubt it is considerably less than that now, four days later--most of the state's burley areas had good harvesting weather the past week, and farmers were cutting and hanging to beat all. "What I have seen looks good," says Walker. "I think it will be an average crop"...Walker, who took the Extension specialist position earlier this year, was attending the BSC meeting for the first time. He is stationed at the Highland Rim Research Center. That is quite a break from tradition--Tennessee's burley specialist has traditionally worked out of an office at the Knoxville campus of the University of Tennessee...But the recent tradition of cooperation with Kentucky tobacco Extension will continue. Walker will spend about 25 percent of his time in Kentucky working on Extension activities, 50 percent in Tennessee on Extension activities and 25 percent on Tennessee research. University of Tennessee plant science research associate Joe Beeler will help as needed in Knoxville.
The flue-cured crop in North Carolina and Virginia still hasn't been completely harvested, especially in the Piedmont. At the N.C. State Fair on October 17, state agricultural commissioner Steve Troxler joked that if there isn't a killing frost in his home county of Guilford (near Greensboro), the farmers might not finish harvesting till Thanksgiving Day! Over in Oxford, N.C., also in the Piedmont, Pat Short of the N.C. Department of Agriculture said the crop at the tobacco research station is not quite that late. But harvest isn't done. "We need about two more weeks (i.e., to the end of October). We hope it doesn't frost before then."
The USDA October production estimate, with percentage comparison to 2013: