LITTLE LEAF LEFT IN FIELD AFTER INTENSE WEEKEND COLD
Getting burley cured any way you can: Burley hangs in black plastic-covered outdoor curing structures at the Highland Rim Research Center in Springfield, Tn. Burley was also hanging in the conventional barns in the left background.
Kentucky--A freeze over the weekend over much of the burley-producing area essentially brought the growing season to a halt. "There were still a few fields that hadn't been harvested," said Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "But I don't expect much of that to be harvested now." Curing conditions had been good, and some is being stripped. "There is some good tobacco now, but I expect a big range of quality between the beginning of the season and the end," Pearce said. He hesitates to estimate production but thinks the current USDA estimate of 160.6 million pounds is too high. "This has been a tough crop to get a handle on," he said.
Tennessee--The cold weather reached Tennessee a day sooner, but very little tobacco remained in the field there either. In Macon County, the number one burley county in the state, Extension agent Steve Walker said, "We had a major freeze over the weekend. It got to 25 degrees here in Lafayette and was colder north to the Kentucky border. It froze all that was still out. Some are trying to harvest what was left, but I think they would get poor quality with some color. It might not cure up at all"... Harvest had been brought to a near halt in north central Tennessee a few weeks earlier by a week of rain. "We had been dry after some showers around Labor Day, but then there was heavy rain from October 8 to October 16," said George Marks of Clarksville. "We had eight inches in six days" ... East Tennessee had its earliest measurable snowfall since 1925, said USDA.
Southwest Virginia/West N.C.-- In southwestern Virginia's Carroll County, higher elevations received two to three inches of snow Friday night to Saturday morning, with temperatures well down into in the 20s, said the county agent there...And in Yancey County, N.C., temperatures dropped into the 20's and the first snow of the season fell....Kenneth Reynolds of Abingdon, Va., had finished cutting and hanging his burley before the cold snap. "The wet weather may affect the quality. It is a big crop, but I am afraid it will be thin because of all the rain," he said. What he has stripped so far has appeared average. "All the rain brought the tobacco in case (so he could work it). But we need some dry weather to dry out the leaf."
Virginia--For all practical purposes, flue-cured harvest was over as of Monday, said David Reed, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist. "Only a few growers here and there still had tobacco in the field at the end of last week," he said. "It was generally small amounts, maybe a half dozen to a dozen barns per farmer." Because of the scattered frost over the weekend, he doesn't know if much of that will be harvested or not. Barely adequate barn space was the main reason harvest continued so late. "We had just so much curing capacity," Reed says.
North Carolina--Most of the flue-cured-producing area in the state got scattered frost Sunday, said Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. Some areas got only a light frost, and some areas escaped it completely. There was still a little flue-cured left in the field, especially in the Piedmont. "If you just had a light frost, you might be able to harvest and sell it. But after a freeze, the leaf turns black, and there is no need of harvesting it"...Harvesting was intense the last week of October. "A few tobacco farmers (in our county) used neighbors' barns to get their remaining tobacco in before the predicted frost," said Brian Parrish, Harnett County Extension tobacco agent in a USDA survey.
In other tobacco news:
PMI will let dealers do its buying: Philip Morris International (PMI) announced November 5 that it will cease contracting directly with American farmers beginning with the 2015 crop. Instead, it will purchase American leaf exclusively through Alliance One International (AOI) and Universal Corporation. The two dealers will honor any multiyear farmer contracts still outstanding, PMI said. What happens to PMI receiving stations? I have been told that AOI intends to operate at least two of PMI's existing receiving stations--Kernersville, N.C., and Smithfield, N.C. I contacted a friend who manages one of PMI's burley stations yesterday--he said the news had come as a surprise to him and his co-workers, and they have no idea if they will still be working after the new agreement goes into effect. Why the change? Thee may be some efficiencies to be obtained. My guess is that PMI has been having problems moving grades it doesn't really need. This way, it can let the two dealers handle this tobacco. Maybe PMI doesn't feel it has the expertise to deal with the child labor question, or just doesn't want to. The details of complying with the GAP program may have been problematic for PMI too, it's been suggested. Well, look for more on this development in the next issue.
Flue-cured auctions still going strong: The Big M Warehouse in Wilson, N.C. (phone 919 496 9033), will probably continue sealed bid auctions until November 19 or 20. Piedmont Warehouse in Danville, Va. (phone 434-203-1404), will continue its sealed bid auctions until November 21 or perhaps a bit later. The Carolinas Tobacco Auction in Lake City, S.C., tentatively plans a final sale on November 13 (call 843-687-5753 for details). The Old Belt Tobacco live auction in Rural Hall, N.C. (phone 336 416 6262) will sell flue-cured through most of November, then switch to burley and sell till perhaps mid December. Volume has been good lately, with B grades selling in the $1.75 to $1.80 a pound range. Watch for news on burley auctions in conventional markets in future issues.
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