About 300,000 pounds of burley from North Carolina plus a little from Tennessee were sold at auction on December 14 at Planters Tobacco Warehouse in Asheville, N.C. But the results weren't as good as hoped. "The price range for most tobacco offered was $1.10 to $1.50 a pound," said warehouseman Billy Anders.
"The farmers were gene-rally discouraged."One likely reason for the low price was the preponderance of carryover from 2014 on the floor. Anders estimated that about 60 percent of the leaf was carryover, and it didn't find favor with buyers. More new crop burley had been expected but dry conditions over the previous 10 days made it difficult to strip leaf from the stalk and bale it. Now, substantial unsold burley remains on farms in western North Carolina, Anders says. "If there is enough interest, we may hold another sale at the end of January." For more information, call Anders at 828 777 8577.
A quarter million pounds were sold at this week's sale at the Big Burley Warehouse in Lexington, Ky., says manager Darby Montgomery. The practical top was $1.73 per pound for good cherry tips, he says, while low-quality tobacco from last season brought $1 or less. His rough estimate of the average price is $1.40 a pound, with a lot selling for $1.50 to $1.60. "If you had good quality, you did all right," he says. He expects to have much more tobacco to sell after Christmas.
Flue-cured auctions ended well. "Some sold as high as $1.97 a pound, and some sold for as little as 20 cents," says Mann Mullen, owner of Big M Warehouse in Wilson, N.C. "We moved quite a bit of tobacco, and everyone seemed satisfied with the price.
All tobacco received a bid, and all was sold." Some of the flue-cured brought to Big M was grown without a contract, says Mullen, but more of it was excess tobacco left over after the grower had achieved the "crop throw" requirements on his contract. "We heard time and again that once a farmer hit the crop throw, then the company didn't want any more," he says. "I am sure farmers with tobacco that fell out of crop throw were glad to have an auction." Thanks to weather, top quality just was not there. "This was a domestic crop," he says.
Going against the grade: A grower who sold at the recent auction at Planter's Warehouse in Asheville says he had only 2014 carryover left to sell. It was still on the stalk, and he didn't think it feasible to pay $10 an hour or more to get a crew to work it off. Instead, he decided to strip it into one grade, which he could do himself. With the sale behind him, he thinks now he did just fine. "You can't afford to grade tobacco if you're paying $10 an hour for stripping," he says.
A lesson learned: The 2015 flue-cured grown in eastern North Carolina was a dry weather crop that was hard to cure, says Peyton McDaniel of Whitakers, near Rocky Mount. In retrospect, he thinks planting earlier might have helped. "There were times when we couldn't harvest because of the weather and then we had a hard time getting our tobacco in before the rains came in September." That was particularly a problem on the organic tobacco he grows with brother Billy McDaniel and cousin Phillip
Watson. "We will start setting our organic tobacco a little earlier in 2016 so we can harvest earlier and still get it fully mature," he says.
Growers to meet: The annual meeting of the Council for Burley Tobacco will take place January 16, at the Owensboro Convention Center during the Ky. Cattlemen's trade show. The annual meeting of BTGCA will take place the day before at 1...The annual meeting of the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 on the last day of the Southern Farm Show (see next item).
Show time! The S.C. AgriBiz and Farm Expo is scheduled for January 13, and 14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Florence Civic Center. The Southern Farm Show will take place February 3, 4 and 5 at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh, N.C. It will end on February 5. Watch for advance coverage of both shows in January issues of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter.
Winds that twisted stalks made sucker control difficult on burley in the Bluegrass, says Jerry Rankin, a farmer and auction operator in Danville, Ky. "We couldn't get in some fields with high boys to spray MH because the tobacco was so tangled." Some tobacco didn't get any MH at all, he says.
UPCOMING GAP RECERTIFICATION MEETINGS
NORTH CAROLINA (Flue-Cured)
Friday, December 18, 2015
Thursday, December 3, 2015
This season was one that flue-cured growers will be glad to "look at in the mirror," says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "We had a great greenhouse season, but it seemed nothing went well after that." He thinks 2,100 pounds an acre is probably a good estimate of the state yield. For 2016, he says the N.C. Extension tobacco team will emphasize that farmers harvest four teams and strict separation by grades. "To have a future, you want to make sure that your buyers get what they pay for," he says.
The Piedmont, N.C.,flue-cured crop really took a hit from the frost in October. "We were short at this house," says Dennis White, owner of Old Belt Tobacco Sales in Rural Hall, N.C. "But we wouldn't have been short at all if it hadn't been for the frost." A lot of tobacco was still in the field at that time, he says. "And it was perfect too." Some was pulled anyway and sold for 90 cents to a dollar. A sign of just how bad this season was: One grower in the area still has about 10 acres that he thinks he can harvest if he can get a crew together, despite the frost. "He knocked the top leaves off and it looks okay," says White. "The green is definitely gone."
White may auction some burley at the Old Belt warehouse if enough growers want him to. "Some has been delivered here already, but it wasn't much and I bought it myself," he says. He has heard there may be enough interest for a one-day auction in Asheville.
Predictions of a short burley crop seem to have been right on the mark. "The volume is just not there," says Jerry Rankin, a farmer and auction operator in Danville, Ky. "At my warehouse, we sold 240,000 pounds at our first sale last week. We had another 60,000 pounds, but this tobacco had quality issues, and I suggested that they get it graded before the sale. I believe it will prove to be a wise decision but it meant we couldn't sell it then." What he did sell averaged $1.60 a pound. "We had a few crops that brought $1.65 to $1.75. This was good domestic tobacco, but not ones." The price seems likely to go up, Rankin says. "With so many farmers coming up short--maybe by 40 percent--I think what we are going to see is that the price will get higher as we go along." One of the few reasons for optimism: An improvement in quality for burley still in the barn seems likely. "A lot of tobacco is still hanging," Rankin says. "We had two weeks of dry weather, and you couldn't get close to touching it. But now we have had fogs, and the tobacco is coming in and out of case. It will take on a darker color."
Editor's Note: As best I can determine, the warehouses conducting burley auctions are as follows. If there are any others, please me know at the telephone number or email address listed above: Clay Tobacco Warehouse, Mount Sterling, Ky. Contact Roger Wilson at 859 498 6722. Big Burley Warehouse, Lexington, Ky. Contact Darby Montgomery at 859 233 9944. Farmers Tobacco Warehouse, 4540 Perryville Rd., Danville, Ky. Contact Jerry Rankin at 859 319 1400.
Black shank was a big problem on flue-cured in 2015, even where a good rotation had been followed. But Vann says rotation should still be the first step in black shank control. "The conditions this season were unusual and probably won't be repeated every year." There will be no new varieties in 2016 but there will be a new chemical--Orondis from Syngenta. With the relatively new fungicide Presidio and the standard fungicide Ridomil, growers have a good fungicide package, says Vann. "Consider using all the tools available," he says.
The low prices for flue-cured lead to a lousy close to the season. "Other than organic tobacco, there will be few tobacco farmers who made any money this year, with many experienced and superior growers losing substantial amounts of money," says Taylor Williams, Moore County (N.C.) Extension tobacco agent. "(It was) a year that was a perfect storm for impeding growth, yield, harvestability and quality."
A yes vote on research: The North Carolina referendum to on whether to continue the checkoff for tobacco-related research and extension programs at the state university passed in November with a yes vote of 94.5 percent of the farmers participating voting yes. As a result, tobacco farmers--both flue-cured and burley--will be assessed 10 cents for every 100 pounds of tobacco sold, as in recent years.
A Holiday Gift for those with good memories of burley tobacco in Tennessee and North Carolina
Enjoy the recollections of 14 current and former burley growers along with a detailed narrative recounting the history of burley
stretching back to the Jamestown Era. It will be an ideal present for anyone who recalls the "old days" in burley with affection.
For a copy, send $25 to co-author Chris Bickers at 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh, N.C. 27609. Or phone him at 919 789 4631 (email firstname.lastname@example.org).