The September projection for tobacco production from USDA (released this past weekend) puts flue-cured volume at 467 million pounds, six million pounds less than it estimated in August and 19 percent down from last year. It projected burley production at 157 million pounds, the same as it estimated in August and a whopping 26 percent down from last year. Among the individual states:
Vote on research in N.C.: A referendum of N.C. tobacco growers will be held onto ascertain whether they want to continue assessing themselves 10 cents per 100 pounds of tobacco sold --both flue-cured and burley-- for support of tobacco research and education. The check-off, started in 1991, has allocated about $300,000 a year to tobacco-related projects at N.C. State University. The most recent referendum was in 2009.
A good start for organic farmers: Swiss Organic Tobacco (SOT) began accepting contract deliveries last Friday at its receiving station in Wilson, N.C. One farmer who delivered that day called TFN to say he was "well satisfied" with the sale. "It was graded fairly," he says. He estimated that he averaged $2.06 a pound on offerings that were mostly C1s and X1s and X2s. "The price is a whole lot better than conventional." But there is still some exasperation with the late start of the market season. SOT's station in Kernersville, N.C., will begin accepting deliveries, then Wilson and Kernersville will alternate on Fridays till the market closes.
Starving in the rain? The general media seem to have discovered the rainy season of 2015. Here are a few samples: From the Evansville (Ind.) Courier Press-- "They always say a dry year'll scare you to death and a wet year'll starve you to death," said Clay Troutman of Calhoun, Kentucky..."We've had a tremendously wet summer and it really hurt us." He grows 12 acres of burley and dark. And from TV station WSET ABC of Lynchburg, Va.--"For us to maintain our place in the world economy, we've got to strive for really, really good, solid clean tobacco," said Pittsylvania County tobacco farmer Tim Shelton.
Too much enthusiasm over energy tobacco? One of the most reliable economic sources this editor has ever had cautioned me about my coverage of the Tyton project in the last issue. "This may turn out to be a bonanza for farmers, at least those located near the extractors, but I would wait to get the full story before jumping on the band wagon," he wrote. "Price is the big issue relative to other uses of the land. And, what might be viable at $100 oil may not fly in today's low energy environment. Lots of questions yet, including the financial strength of the companies and their ability to pay." That is probably good advice, so I will leave it for what it is worth. By the way, I have learned that Tyton has an informative website at http://tytonbio.com.
Friday, September 18, 2015
Thursday, September 10, 2015
A company in Virginia will soon begin signing contracts with farmers to produce tobacco for the manufacture of ethanol and biodiesel. Tyton BioEnergy Systems of Danville wants farmers to grow "energy" tobacco for delivery to its extractor in Danville (or to another extractor that is in the works in Raeford, N.C.) No information yet on prices or what scale of production of the company is looking for, but all that should be available fairly soon.
Cheaper to grow: The cost of producing energy tobacco should be much less than that of flue-cured, burley or any of the dark types. There will be no cost of plant production: Tyton will provide the transplants. Spacing of rows need not change but the spacing within the row will be much denser. You may need to tweak your fertility program to some degree but Tyton leaders don't expect a significant increase in total fertilizer per acre. You won't need to control suckers since suckers produce the end product just as well as leaf. But topping is desirable, although it apparently didn't get done in the photograph above. Control of insects and diseases will not be affected. You will harvest with a silage chopper, probably in mid summer, which would be the time of peak sugars, and perhaps once more at the end of the season. Curing is a thing of the past--the energy tobacco will go straight from the field to Tyton.
Eventually, beltwide plantings of energy tobacco are the goal. But for 2016, most contracting farmers will be in the vicinity of the two extractors. The company expects to expand into Kentucky-Tennessee and Georgia-Florida in the near future. Tyton's basic varieties--which were derived from flue-cured breeding material--will be planted in all current tobacco-producing areas.
Contracting to grow energy tobacco has not yet begun but will soon. No information yet on prices or what scale of production of the company is looking for, but all that should be available fairly soon too. It sure wouldn't hurt to get into company's database now. You can do that by sending an email to email@example.com.
EDITOR'S ASSESSMENT: I am not a tobacco farmer, never have been. But if I was, I would run to my word processor and get my name in the hat to grow this new type. What could be the down side, as long as the price is high enough to return production costs and a reasonable profit? You don't have to grow plants, you don't have to control suckers, and you don't need workers to hand harvest. Best of all, no curing is required, or at least not by you. The company will take care of whatever processing is needed after harvest. This seems like an effort with infinite promise. I urge you now or tomorrow or the next day to send an email (you should be able to do it by clicking on the address above) and get on the list. There is no obligation; you're just letting Tyton know you might be interested.--Chris Bickers
In other tobacco news: A new organic tobacco company begins accepting leaf deliveries this week. The two receiving stations for tobacco contracted by Swiss Organic Tobacco (SOT) will begin this week taking deliveries every other week. It will be on a rotating basis. The station in Wilson, N.C.--at R.C. Commodities, 1801 London Church Rd.--will begin receiving for SOT this Friday, September 12, while the one inKernersville, N.C.--W/S Tobacco Services, 1459 Brookford Rd.--will begin Friday, September 18. Each will take SOT deliveries on alternate Fridays till the market closes.
Believe it or not, domestic cigarette sales and production are both actually slightly higher for the first five months of 2015 compared to the same period last year, says Will Snell, Kentucky Extension tobacco economist. "How can that be the case? After all, the extreme cold weather in many parts of the U.S. this past winter likely limited ...lighting up outside in midst of growing in-door smoking restrictions. Plus, cigarette price increases have been running four times the overall inflation rate."
Possible explanations: Lower gas prices might be impacting cigarette sales as convenience stores (most of which sell gasoline) sell an estimated 65 to 70 percent of smokes. The growth in electronic cigarettes may be waning as tobacco consumers prefer to get their nicotine from cigarettes. Or it might be just some inventory adjustment by the manufacturers or a short term anomaly? "At this point, it is unclear how this surprising short-term trend may impact the market for the 2015 crop and contract volume for 2016," says Snell. (This was derived from an article on the Council for Burley Tobacco webpage. For more, go to www.councilforburleytobacco.com and click on "News.")
Plenty of tobacco, not much demand. American Tobacco Exchange its fourth sealed bid auction of the season Wednesday afternoon, and sales remain in the doldrums. "All we saw till today was fair to low quality lugs," says Randy Brandon, manager of the auction. "We got a few cutters today but no leaf at all." Volume has been about what he expected. The quality of offerings should improve soon, he thinks, because of late rains and farmers' commitment to letting their leaf get ripe.
Editor: Chris Bickers/903-9 Shellbrook Ct./Raleigh NC firstname.lastname@example.org/ 919 789 4631
BIG M TOBACCO WAREHOUSE
1723 Goldsboro St. SW, Wilson, N.C.,
in the old Liberty Warehouse
We hold sealed bid auctions
HONEST AND TRUSTWORTHY
We will be GAP certified
For more information, contact Mann Mullen at 919-496-9033
How burley bloomed in the Blue Ridge
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 The History of Burley Tobacco in East Tennessee & Western North Carolina by Billy Yeargin and Christopher Bickers. Send a check for $25 to Chris Bickers, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh, N.C. 27609. Questions? Contact Bickers by phone at 919 789 4631 or via email at email@example.com.
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
The opening day offerings on August 25 at the Old Belt Tobacco Sales warehouse in Rural Hall, N.C., were all dry weather lugs with no body, says warehouse owner Dennis White. "The five buyers we had didn't put any in number one grades," he says. "But I think we did as good as the receiving stations." The best tobacco brought $1.35 to $1.40, while fourth grade tobacco brought $1 to $1.10 and fifth grades 50 cents to 65 cents. "I was satisfied," he says. Very few bids were rejected, White says. White is optimistic about the next round of leaf. "We have had some rain in the Piedmont since the lugs went into the barn." He sold 160,000 pounds at the sale and expects to sell more at his second sale today.
Two sales a week in Wilson: Big M warehouse in Wilson, N.C., has started selling on Monday as well as Weednesday, says owner Mann Mullen. Sales have gone well so far. "We had fair prices, given the low demand for dry weather lugs of any types," he says. A few number ones and number twos sold well.
Several farmers have expressed concern to TFN that Swiss Organic Tobacco, the new company buying organic tobacco in the states, has not yet begun accepting deliveries of the tobacco it contracted with them. Son Butler, a spokesman for the company, told TFN that he is confident that the station will open no later than early next week (the week beginning with Labor Day) and perhaps earlier. He insisted that the relatively late opening will not prevent the full delivery of the company's purchase.
Less than half the Georgia crop has been marketed so far, and the best is still in the field, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. "We have sold part of the first harvest and a little of the second," he says. "There has been a quality problem in the lower stalk, and we have very seldom seen number one grades." But the price at receiving stations is creeping up to $2.05. "We could use some rain now to help ripen the crop."
Flue-cured is flourishing in the N.C. Piedmont. Grower Stanley Smith of King, N.C., says there were some rough moments earlier, especially four straight weeks with very little rain. "But now, the crop is good," he says. The quality will be above average, Smith thinks. "But we will have to see what the market is demanding. I have heard that the companies are grading awful strict."
The balance of burley supply and demand is better now thanks to the weather this season, says Will Snell, Kentucky Extension ag economist. "The 2015 U.S. burley crop was projected [in the recent USDA crop report] at 157.3 million pounds (-26 percent), with Kentucky's estimate forecast to total 117.8 million pounds (-28 percent). Beltwide, acres are down 18 percent, while the average U.S. burley yield is off 11 percent." This much smaller crop may be more in line with--or perhaps even below--anticipated U.S. burley needs in the current demand environment, he says.
In Tennessee, the rain started up again in August and interfered with harvest on the burley farm of Tony Hutson of Bell Buckle, 50 miles south of Nashville. "I have been spearing and hanging this week," he said on August 20. "But I couldn't wilt it because of the rain. I had to hang it green to keep the mud off." Marketing is uncertain because he didn't contract this year. "I have been selling my tobacco at the [Farmers Warehouse] auction in Danville, Ky." It has worked out reasonably well. "I sold last year at the third-from-last sale. I averaged $1.80 a pound," he said.
Dark fire-cured harvest is progressing well in Appomattox County, Va., says Bruce Jones, Extension tobacco agent. But there are still some dry sections in the county that need rain. "Most areas received a little rainfall [recently] but it was very spotty," Jones says. "Some areas only received a few tenths of an inch."
I met Robert Shipley of Vilas, N.C., in the Eighties when he came to Raleigh to
Chris Bickers / 903-9 Shellbrook Ct. / Raleigh NC 27609 / 919 789 4631 / firstname.lastname@example.org
How burley bloomed in the Blue Ridge
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 The History of Burley Tobacco in East Tennessee & Western North Carolina by Billy Yeargin and Christopher Bickers. Send a check for $25 to Chris Bickers, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh, N.C. 27609. Questions? You can contact Bickers via email at chrisbickers@ gmail.com or by phone at 919 789 4631.