BURLEY DOWN 26%, FLUE-CURED DOWN 17%, PROJECTS USDA
Topping out: Flue-cured grower Stanley Smith (right) directs his workers as they top on August 7 on his farm near King in the Piedmont of N.C.
SERIOUSLY SMALLER FLUE-CURED,
BURLEY CROPS IN 2015 THAN 2014
THE USDA AUGUST 12 PRODUCTION ESTIMATE
Production projections plus estimated change from 2014
FLUE-CURED: Georgia--29.25 million pounds, down 15 percent. North Carolina-- 365.5 million pounds, down 19 percent. South Carolina--27.17 million pounds, down 18 percent. Virginia--51.450 million pounds, down nearly five percent. All U.S.--473 million pounds, down 17 percent.
BURLEY: Kentucky--117.8 million pounds, down nearly 28 percent. Tennessee--20,800, down 23 percent. Pennsylvania--11,280 m, down 11.5 percent. Ohio--3,325 million pounds, down 22.6 percent. Virginia--2,080 million pounds, down almost 29 percent. North Carolina--1,980 million pounds, down 25.5 percent. All U.S.--157 million pounds, down 26 percent.
OTHER TYPES: Fire-cured (Kentucky/Tennessee/Virginia) -- 56.6 million pounds, down four percent. Dark air-cured (Kentucky/ Tennessee)--16.6 million pounds, down five percent. Cigar types (Connecticut /Massachusetts/Pennsylvania)--nine million pounds, no change. Southern Maryland (Pennsylvania)--4.4 million pounds, down six percent.
ALL U.S. TOBACCO PRODUCTION is forecast at 717 million pounds, down 18 percent from 2014.
Reports from the field
VIRGINIA--Flue-cured growers have nearly completed pulling their crop the first time, says David Reed, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist. "It will probably take another week," he says. "The quality is reasonable. But these are first primings and the market for them is soft." Rain in the Southside has been spotty, but some areas have had four to six inches of rain recently. "We will be selling less than last year," says Reed. "The recent USDA report has us at 21,000 acres, up from its earlier estimate of 19,500. That is down from 22,500 acres last year and sounds about right to me." NASS reported that 21 percent of the crop had been harvested by August 8.
NORTH CAROLINA--Harvest is wide open in much of the state, although in the Piedmont it has just gotten started, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "Overall, I would say we are about two to three weeks late because it was so hot and dry earlier. This is a dry weather crop and difficult to cure."The big news:
Black shank may be as bad as it's been in the last 10 years, perhaps because of the prolonged heat and dry conditions. Also, there has been some late pressure from Granville wilt and some hollow stalk. "In a few cases, the disease pressure has been enough that the farmers have stripped some fields in order to save them."
SOUTH CAROLINA--Almost all of the tobacco (all flue-cured) has been cropped at least once, says William Hardee, area Extension agronomy agent in the Pee Dee area. "And much of it has been cropped a second time. I would say we are at least halfway through the harvest season. Bacterial wilt has hit us hard here lately, and symptoms have progressed very quickly due to the added drought/heat stress on the plants." Many growers have started stripping their crop to keep from losing leaf in the field.
GEORGIA--About half of the crop (which is all flue-cured) had been harvested by August 8, said NASS, which projected production at 29.5 million pounds, down about 15 percent from last year.
KENTUCKY--Things are looking up since a month ago. "Overall, we have a fair crop now," says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "We have pockets where the crop was drowned out, and in some cases we weren't able to spray on a timely basis. But harvest has started and what is coming in looks pretty good." It will be a wet weather crop, not a bumper crop, but as of now, it looks reasonably good. "Growers have done a good job getting all there is to get," Pearce says. After a mostly wet season, the last two weeks have been more or less normal. "A lot of fields have dried out. Topping is about 75 percent complete and maybe 10 to 15 percent of the crop has been harvested."
TENNESSEE--Harvest of burley in Bradley County in the southeastern part of the state was about 30 percent completed through August 9, said Patrick Sweatt, county Extension agent. "Weather has been dry and mild for the past two weeks (July 27 to August 8), punctuated with heat in the mid-90s (but) only a couple of times." Statewide, about 65 percent of the burley crop had been topped by August 8, NASS said.
NORTH CAROLINA--If the research plots at Laurel Springs and Waynesville are any indication, the burley crop in western North Carolina should be terrific, says Vann. "In Laurel Springs, the burley is absolutely beautiful. You have to say the crop looks very good." Black shank has not been the issue for burley growers in the state, he says...In Madison, the leading burley county in the state, Extension tobacco agent Kendra Norton says it had been damp earlier, but now some fields could use rain. A blue mold scare (see below) may cause farmers to top a little ahead of schedule.
KENTUCKY-TENNESSEE--The Black Patch has dried considerably, says Andy Bailey, Extension tobacco specialist. "In particular, Springfield, Tn., has been dry the last two or three weeks. It is pretty good harvest weather. We have cut 40 percent of the crop on some farms, none on others. Maybe 10 to 15 percent of all acres has been cut by now. That would be about normal." This crop won't weigh as much as expected, Bailey says. "The cured weight will be low compared to the green weight." There has been quite a bit of black shank the past two weeks, but a bigger problem has been wind damage and blown over tobacco. "We had to use more MH than normal because of crooked stalks which made it difficult to use rundown application of (non MH) sucker control chemicals." Bailey thinks dark farmers have lost five to 10 percent from what they expected when they set, mostly to water and wind.
VIRGINIA--The tiny fire-cured crop in Virginia seems to be doing well, according to Reed. USDA estimates plantings at 350 acres, up six percent since last year, and production at 805,000 pounds, up almost 11 percent from last year.
In other tobacco news:
Blue mold blows away. Back on June 2, blue mold was found on burley transplants in Greene County in northeastern Tennessee. The site was a greenhouse at the University of Tennessee tobacco research station in Greeneville, where sanitation is routinely maintained at a high level. Apparently, a shower of blue mold spores occurred, presumably on such a small scale that only the one greenhouse was affected. Since then, there have been a few cases of blue mold, one in a field near the greenhouse, and others in nearby Tennessee counties. Perhaps the last incidence of the season was found in July in Madison County, N.C., which adjoins Greene County to the south. The farmer topped and had no problems after that. None of the incidences caused an economic impact. The tobacco plant is less conducive to blue mold after topping, but Pearce of Kentucky says it could still appear. "It appeared about this time a year ago so it could still have an impact," he says.
Impact of Chinese devaluation? China devalued its currency recently, rendering the yuan about three or four percent less valuable relative to the dollar than it was before. Considering that China is our leading customer for leaf tobacco, should be we concerned? I am no economist, but this devaluation is so small that it seems very unlikely that there will be any noticeable effect on our exports. Also, tobacco is traded internationally in U.S. dollars, as it has been my whole adult life. The relative costs between producing countries should continue to be the factor that determines where China goes for tobacco.
Auctions opening for flue-cured: The American Tobacco Exchange will begin conducting silent auctions this Wednesday at the old Planters Warehouse in Goldsboro. Street address is 1002 U.S. Hwy. 117 Bypass South. The sale will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Delivery has begun so if you would like to sell there, call Randy Brandon or Sonya Jackson at 919 429 8900...The season's first sale at Big M Warehouse in Wilson, N.C., will take place this Wednesday at 10 a.m. It will be a sealed bid auction. Deliveries have begun. Call 919 496 9033 to sell there...The Old Belt Tobacco Sales warehouse will begin live auctions on Tuesday, August 25, at 10 a.m. or maybe a little later. Delivery has begun. Call 336 416 6262 or 336 969 6891 if you want to sell there.
Will there be any other flue-cured auctions this season? If you know of any other than the ones listed above, let me know at email@example.com or call me at 919 789 4631. In a future issue I will list burley auctions for the coming season.
For an easy-to-read account of how burley came to east Tennessee and western North Carolina in the late 1800s, along with oral history interviews with some of the best of the older generation burley farmers and much more, order a copy of The History of Burley Tobacco in East Tennessee & Western North Carolina, by Billy Yeargin and Christopher Bickers (editor of this newsletter) Send a check for $25 to Chris Bickers, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh NC 27609. Questions? Contact Bickers at 919-789 4631 or firstname.lastname@example.org.