Wednesday, December 6, 2017

EARLY PROJECTIONS: BURLEY CONTRACTS DOWN, DARK CONTRACTS STABLE


The global supply/demand balance for burley improved entering 2017 following three years of excess supplies and dwindling demand, says Will Snell, Kentucky Extension tobacco economist. "Demand conditions for U.S. burley remain soft in the international market." U.S. burley exports fell 24 percent in 2016 and are down more than 15 percent so far in 2017, he says "Alternatively, imports of burley tobacco into the U.S. market have continued to gain market share, comprising one-half to two-thirds of all burley used by U.S. cigarette manufacturers in recent years." Domestic cigarette sales are expected to fall three to four percent in 2017, matching the historical annual decline of nearly 30 percent over the past decade, he says.

Despite deteriorating demand conditions, the outlook for the current U.S. burley marketing season is benefitting from a large decline in African burley production this past year, Snell says. "Kentucky burley yields will be higher, and overall the quality of the 2017 crop appears favorable for buyers." Good quality crops should average in the low to mid $1.90s, up a few cents from the past two seasons, he says. But Africans are boosting production in 2018 which will likely lead to a global surplus in the coming year. "Consequently, the early outlook is for a reduction in U.S. burley contract volume in 2018, especially if the 2017 crop comes near the level currently projected by USDA."

The dark tobacco outlook looks much brighter than does burley's. "After a dismal 2016 dark tobacco crop, the size and quality of the 2017 dark tobacco crop rebounded considerably this past season," says Snell. "USDA has the dark tobacco crop exceeding 70 million pounds, com-pared to less than 50 million pounds in 2016." Annual snuff consumption is still growing, but at a slower pace. Prices for this year's dark crop should continue to average around $2.40 per pound for dark air-cured and $2.75 per pound for dark fire-cured. "Look for dark tobacco contract volume to remain relatively constant for the coming year," says Snell.

Burley stripping is over half way complete in Kentucky. "It is a fairly decent crop," says Bob Pearce, Extension tobacco specialist. The quality is the best in several years." He hasn't seen enough crops to make a good estimate of the state's production, but he thinks USDA's most recent estimate of Kentucky burley--132 million pounds--is probably at least 10 percent too high.

The progress is similar in Tennessee, where Eric Walker, Tn. Extension tobacco specialist, says stripping is proceeding at an average pace or better. "Some farmers are not far from being done," he says.

No new varieties for burley or flue-cured this season, but Pearce says the relatively new burley variety from the Kentucky-Tennessee program--KT 215--seems to be catching on with growers because of its good resistance to Race 1 black shank. It is also resistant to fusarium wilt but has no resistance to potato virus Y.

GAP GROWER TRAINING EVENTS
North Carolina (Flue-cured)
  • January 8, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Wilson County Ag. Ctr., 1806 Goldsboro St., Wilson.
  • January 9, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Yadkin County Extension, 2051 Agricultural Way, Yadkinville.
  • January 10, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. Edgecombe/Nash County, Farmers' Market, 1006 Peachtree St., Rocky Mount.
  • January 11, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Johnston County Extension Office.
  • January 12, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Granville County Expo & Convention Center, 4185 US-15, Oxford. 
  • January 22. 9 a.m. - 12 p.m. Caswell County Civic Center, 536 Main St, Yanceyville. Also for farmers from Person, Alamance, Guilford and Orange Counties.
  • January 23, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Forsyth County Extension Office., 1450 Fairchild Rd # 6, Winston-Salem.
  • January 24, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Martin County Farmers Market, 4001 W Main Street Extn., Williamston.
  • January 25, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Pitt County Cooperative Extension Office.
  • January 25, 2p.m. - 5p.m. Sampson County Ag Expo Center. Duplin County included.
  • January 26, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Lenoir County Shrine Club, 1558 US-70, Kinston. Greene/Lenoir/Jones/Craven/Carteret Counties included.
  • January 29, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Wayne County Extension Office.
  • January 30, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Lee County Extension Office. 
DATES TO REMEMBER
  • December 7, 8 a.m. N.C. Tobacco Day 2017. Johnston County Extension Center, 2736 N.C. Hwy. 210, Smithfield, N.C. Meeting ends with lunch.
  • January 17-18, 10 a.m. S.C. AgriBiz and Farm Expo Florence (S.C.) Civic Center at the junction of I-95 and I-20.
  • January 31-February 2, 9 a.m. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fair Grounds, Raleigh, N.C.
  • February 2, 10 a.m. Annual Meeting, Tobacco Growers Association of N.C., Holshouser Building, N.C. State Fairgrounds (during Southern Farm Show). Meeting ends with lunch.





Thursday, November 16, 2017

HOW OUR COMPETITORS ARE DOING




 In Malawi, buyers inspect burley tobacco on the Lilongwe auction floor. 

Flue-cured: The 2018 Brazil flue-cured crop--which is currently  in the field--has been projected at a volume of just under 1.3 billion pounds. That is slightly lower than the 1.37  billion  pounds  reported  for  the  crop  harvested  earlier  this  year,  says Blake Brown, N.C. Extension economist.   Both crops are/were well above the recent low of 1.01  billion  pounds in  2016.  The 2017 Zimbabwe crop -- for which marketing ended recently--is estimated to have been 403 million pounds, down from
442 million pounds in 2016. The 2017 average price per pound in Zimbabwe is expected to have been about $1.34 per pound, which is about the same as in 2016. "A stronger Brazi-lian Real and a larger (US) 2017 crop should lead to higher exports for the 2017 crop," he says.

Burley: In Malawi, our strong competitor in burley, international buyers have asked for production of about 375 million kilograms from the 2017/18 crop, according the national Tobacco Control Commission. This is a 10 percent increase from the 2016/17 volume. But that may not be as significant as it sounds: Production fell well short of demand in the season just ended with only 240 million kilograms coming to market against the stated demand of 350 million kilograms. The commission's Chief Executive Officer, David Luka, said, "This 10 percent increase in demand could be a result of the undersupply of tobacco the market experienced in the just-ended season."

The dark types had better luck in harvesting on schedule than flue-cured and burley, but still, some was cut late. In Trigg County, Ky., some fire-cured was still being cut the first week of November. That is risky, says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist. "We usually don't do well with fire-cured that is cut after November 1. There is less chance of good curing weather after that." The rainfall was favorable for most of the dark-producing area in the fall, although there were some heavy rains associated with Hurri-cane Irma, especially around Springfield, Tn., causing some damage.
Bailey's rough estimate of dark production?Maybe 56 to 57 million pounds of fire-cured and 16 to 18 million pounds of dark air-cured. Both estimates are one to two million pounds less than USDA's last Crop Report. Yield might be 3,200 pounds per acre for fire-cured and 2,800 pounds per acre for dark air-cured, he adds. Both are close to average. "What I have seen is pretty good," says Bailey. "It is a hundred times better than last year" when bad weather seriously reduced yields.

If any tobacco is still left in the field in North Carolina, it probably will stay there. "Jack Frost got his due over the weekend [November 11 and 12], and I wouldn't think there would be much useable leaf after that," says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extensiontobacco specialist. "Most of our growers were finished by October 20, but there was an area north of Oxford, N.C., on up to the Virginia state line where the crop was behind. There was a mad dash to finish and some had to harvest much later than normal."

This flue-cured season will be remembered for its early disease outbreaks, especi-ally tomato spotted wilt virus, says Vann. "It was the worst I have ever observed. We even saw some very mild cases in the Middle Belt, which is unheard of. We (the N.C. Extension tobacco team) are working on management strategies to deal with the disease." Breeding might eventually help--at the present time, no varietal resistance is available.

Welcome to the November II issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter regularly or need to change an address, please click on "Join our mailing list" and follow the prompts. For more information, you can call me at 919-789-4631 or email me at chrisbickers@gmail.com.         --Chris Bickers

A Letter to the Editor

PRICE RELIEF MORE NEEDED NOW THAN PRODUCTION INCREASES
We spend so much time talking about production. But the most pressing issues we face now are the price we receive for our tobacco and the wage that we pay H2A workers. I have made 38 tobacco crops in my life time, and I have never seen the situation this bad financially, even in the days when we were paying 25 cents into the no net cost program. I have been working H2A workers since 1985. The wage then was $3.95. It has increased over the years, but in the last 10 years, it has gotten out of hand. Growers are reluctant to admit it, but their workers are making more money than they are. I am a member of Virginia Agricultural Growers Association and am currently its treasurer. In 2017 we brought in 1,600 workers to Virginia growers. Less than 10 years ago we were bringing in over 3,000. You can see the trend: More acres, less farmers. If we continue down this path of reduced price and increased wage and production cost, tobacco production will soon die here in Virginia. We are all afraid of upsetting the tobacco companies and losing our contracts, but someone must speak. I pray that our leadership will be more vocal to the companies about this wage issue. If the Adverse wage continues to increase without an increase in price (which is unlikely), all of this will be a moot point. Tobacco farmers are at the bottom of the food chain and everyone else is feeding off us!--Tom Blair, Pittsylvania County, Va. 
DATES TO REMEMBER
  • December 7, 8 a.m. N.C. Tobacco Day 2017. Johnston County Extension Center, 2736 N.C. Hwy. 210, Smithfield, N.C. Meeting ends with lunch.
  • January 17-18, 10 a.m. S.C. AgriBiz and Farm Expo Florence (S.C.) Civic Center at the junction of I-95 and I-20.
  • January 31-February 2, 9 a.m. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fair Grounds, Raleigh, N.C.
  • February 210 a.m. Annual Meeting, Tobacco Growers Association of N.C., Holshouser Building, N.C. State Fair Grounds (during Southern FarmShow). Meeting ends with lunch.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

FLUE-CURED AND BURLEY PROJECTIONS KEEP DROPPING

Burley wilts in the field near Lafayette, Tn.
How credible are USDA's recent estimates? As reported in the last issue, in its October Crop Production Report, USDA projected the U.S. flue-cured crop at 472.2 million pounds, up 9.8 per cent from 2016, and U.S. burley at 165.6 million pounds, up 18.5 percent from 2016. Both projections seemed too optimistic to me, so I went to two of the best sources I know of production in this country:
  • Flue-cured: Graham Boyd, executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C., thinks 405 to 410 million pounds is much more likely since the yield was reduced by weather factors. "Mostly too wet early in locations that cause the crop to grow fast and wash out its weight potential," he says. Tomato spotted wilt was a factor too.
  • Burley: Daniel Green, chief execu-tive officer of Burley Stabilization Corporation, estimated this burley crop will likely end up between 135 to 140 million pounds. "We had excess rain across much of the growing region late in the season," he says. "Some areas drowned out, but the real problem was leaf that grew too fast." 
Hurricane alert: Torrential rains in September associated with Hurricane Harvey and to a lesser extent Hurricane Irma caused burley in the fields to start growing again. Much of the leaf looked great going in the barn, but is coming out on the thin side. The curing environment may have also been affected negatively, as many growers are reporting some "housey" burley. One way or another, yield was reduced in the major growing areas.
A fortuitous dry spell: A late-season drought worked in favor of east Tennessee burley farmers this season, says grower Jeff Aiken of Telford, Tn., near Johnson City. "There was adequate rainfall most of the spring and summer, but it was unusually dry in August and September." That aided in harvest and barning, he says. "We were never run out of the field because of rain." But then it did start raining in mid October, and that helped curing. "With moisture in the air, farmers were better able to get the desirable color." Aiken barned the last of his burley on October 6, a little behind schedule since frost strikes in east Tennessee some years by that time. "But the first significant frost in this area didn't come until the last week of October," he says.
Stripping nearly half completed: The central Kentucky burley crop experienced weather conditions similar to east Tennessee. There had been some delays due to tropical storms, but a favorable stretch of weather contributed to a speedy end of harvest (see Tobacco Farmer Newsletter, October II). USDA estimated that 45 percent of the Kentucky crop had been stripped by November 5.
The Virginia flue-cured crop ran late but all of it has been harvested now, says David Reed, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist. "We had a lot off it harvested in October," he says. That used to be considered late, but harvests continuing well in October have become the trend in recent years, he says. "One thing that worked in our favor: we haven't had a general killing frost yet." He describes Virginia's crop as good with reasonable quality. Yields were good too. "If we are short of what was contracted, it isn't by much." He expects production to fall in the 50 to 51-million-pound range.
The flue-cured crop in North Carolina is very usable, says Rick Smith, president of Independent Leaf Tobacco in Wilson, N.C. "In some areas it is close to vintage." And it could get still better. "There are still some farmers in Old Belt who haven't finished harvesting," he says. "The predictions are that there is no danger of a frost this week, so they may yet get it all in.
To "cross" the GAP, you'll have to scan. In an effort to keep the U.S. Tobacco GAP program "honest and fair for all who participate," GAP Connections (GAPC) will be instituting a new policy beginning in January, says Amy Rochkes, GAPC Training and Resource Coordinator. To do that, GAPC will require you to present identification (such as a driver's license) and your Grower ID Card, which will be scanned at the end of the training session. You can scan only your own Grower IDcard, not those of family members or landlords. You have to attend the entire GAP training session--late arrivals will be recorded at the discretion of GAPC Staff. GAP Connections will not add training after the event without verifying attendance with Extension personnel. You can find more information about the Annual GAP Training using the GAP Connections Grower App on the iPhone or Android, by visiting www. gapconnections.com or by following GAP Connections on Facebook.

New president: Barry Bush of Cookeville, Tn., was elected the new president of Burley Stabilization Corporation in Springfield, Tn., at the organization's annual meeting in October. He replaces George Marks of Clarksville, Tn., who passed away in July. Bush has been succeeded as vice president by Dean Bates of Gallatin, Tn.


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Friday, October 27, 2017

HOW MUCH TOBACCO DID YOU REALLY PRODUCE THIS YEAR?


Contestants at the tobacco-tying contest at the N.C. State Fair show off their stringing ability. The wining team was the " Looping Fools" of Maple Hill (not shown). Team members Sandy and Ken Jones of Maple Hill and Michael Sunday of Holly Ridge looped their stick of tobacco in 51.67 seconds.


The last USDA production estimate for 2017 was issued earlier this month. It included extremely optimistic estimates for flue-cured, burley and the two dark types. But several normally reliable sources have suggested that the projections--especially for Kentucky burley and N.C. flue-cured--may be way too high. Take the USDA projections (following) for what they seem to be worth and I will try to get a more credible report in the next issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter about a week from now.

FLUE-CURED 
  • North Carolina--374.9 million pounds, up nine percent. 
  • Virginia--49.5 million pounds, up two percent. 
  • Georgia--25 million pounds, down 12 percent. 
  • South Carolina--22.8 million pounds, down seven percent. 
  • All flue cured--472.2 million pounds, up 9.8 per cent.
BURLEY 
  • Kentucky--132.3 million pounds, up 23.9 percent. 
  • Tennessee--18 million pounds, up 11.1 percent. 
  • Pennsylvania -- 11.25 million pounds, down 9.8 per cent.
  • Virginia--2.36 million pounds, down 6.1 percent. 
  • North Carolina--1.7 million pounds, down five percent.
  • All burley--165.6 million pounds, up 18.5 percent. 
FIRE-CURED--57.9 million pounds, up 46.5 percent.
DARK AIR-CURED--19.44 million pounds, up 94 percent.
PENNSYLVANIA SEEDLEAF--4 million pounds, up four percent.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND--2.5 million pounds, no change.  
                  
In other tobacco news...
Flue-cured growers and many with a sentimental attachment to the type came to the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh on October 13 to celebrate this year's crop. Flue-cured leaf was brought down from the nearby Oxford Research Station to provide the basic material for the fair's annual tobacco-tying contest. As the contestants tied their leaf on strings, several growers reviewed their experiences growing bright tobacco in 2017.

Hustling to finish harvest: Carl Watson, the tobacco research specialist responsible for growing the crop at the Oxford,  research station, said he expected that harvest on the station would continue until the end of thisweek. "That's quite late for us," he said. Several farmers north of the station are still harvesting too. I have seen some of them 'borrowing' barns from neighbors who are finished, to speed things up. But if we can avoid extremely cold weather, I think this crop will all get out of the field." It got dry during harvest, said Watson. "We were having a problem of bruising of the leaves. So, we quit harvesting for a time and watered again."
Good quality: Sam Crews of Oxford, N.C., said poundage was down on his farm. "But it was generally good quality. The top of the stalk looked good. I am sure this crop will fare well in foreign markets."
Lowerstalk short: Thomas Shaw of Henderson, N.C., north of Durham, said his crop was average. "The wet weather early was a problem, but we overcame that." Heat late in the season delayed harvest, and he finished October 11, late for his area. "We are a little short on pounds, due to the weather extremes. The heat early took its toll, leaving us a little short on lower stalk leaf. Then at harvest, some fields were too wet and some too dry.  Selling this crop has been a challenge."
Harvest of the Kentucky burley crop is probably complete by now, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "But some of it hasn't been in the barn long." Difficulty obtaining labor slowed harvest on some farms, and tropical storms slowed some others. "Still, we had a favorable stretch of weather to get the last of the crop in, and curing got off to a good start." Curing seems to be going fairly well for the first tobacco that was harvested early. But the later-harvested could face a problem if temperatures turn downward. "An average of 60 to 90 degrees is ideal for curing," says Pearce. "If it is lower, you run the risk of curing green."


Editor's Noter: I hope you have enjoyed the October II issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter to your email address, or if you need to change an address, please call me at 919-789-4631 or email me at chrisbickers@gmail.com.--Chris Bickers

Sunday, October 8, 2017

WHAT'S HAPPENED SINCE THE HURRICANE?

Upper Mtn. Research Station, Laurel Springs NC Recently cut burley wilting
What hurricane? This burley at the Upper Mountain Research Station at Laurel Springs in northwest N.C. was cut and wilting in the field on September 19. (Photo by Stan Biconish.)


CROP CONDITIONS AFTER IRMA

FLUE-CURED

NC: Hurricane Irma did little damage to North Carolina burley or flue-cured, even though there was more tobacco still in the field in early September than is normal, said Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. "The rains we received were light compared to Georgia and Florida," he said. "We dodged a bullet"...Holdability was an issue in flue-cured resulting from those rains that did fall, along with many days of 90-degree high temperatures. "We have some tobacco struggling to 'hold' in the field," says Vann. "As a result, it is too early to make a prediction of volume. But if anything, it might be a little below average." Note: An early frost could be a disaster for N.C. flue-cured growers this year. "But if it comes around the normal date, I think farmers will be able to get their crop in," Vann said.
 
VA: Much of the flue-cured crop was still in the field when Irma passed through, but the state was spared the heaviest rains. Now, rain would be welcome. "It's dry--we could use some rain," says Extension agent Lindy Tucker In Lunenburg County in the Piedmont. "[But] tobacco is coming along." USDA estimates that 92 percent of the state's flue-cured tobacco had been harvested by October 1.
 
GA, FL and SC: Harvest is complete. For more on Irma in Georgia, see below.

BURLEY
 
KY: There had been an extended late season heat wave but it finally ended on September 27 with the passage of a strong cold front through the area, USDA said. USDA reported that 88 percent of the crop had been harvested and 12 percent had been stripped. Some houseburn was reported.
 
TN: Temperatures had also been unseasonably warm in much of Tennessee but cooled considerably the last few days of September. No precipitation for over two weeks had resulted in extremely dry conditions. "Very dry weather," reports Extension agent Chris Ramsey in Sullivan County, Tn. USDA estimated 85 percent had been harvested.

NC: Hurricane Irma was not a factor at the Upper Mountain Research Station. Superintendent Tracy Taylor says, "We had some rain--maybe two inches--and there were strong winds, but the tobacco got through it just fine." All the station burley is now hung in barns and appears to have potential for good quality. "And I think the yield will be fine," he says. "We were late getting planted, but the crop caught up and turned out well." He expects it will be graded around Christmas. In Yancey County, Extension agent Stanley Holloway says, "Burley producers are concerned with the less-than-ideal curing conditions resulting in a lot of variegated cured leaf color." USDA estimated 61 percent of the state burley crop was harvested by October 1.
 
VA: Cutting and barning was proceeding in southwest Virginia. "Harvest progress slowed a bit due to rain from Hurricane Irma," says Kevin Spurlin, agriculture agent in Grayson County. "But effects from the storm itself were minimal."
 
In other tobacco news...

No dicamba disaster in 2017: There were only eight complaints of dicamba drift damage on tobacco in North Carolina this year, Professor Alan York of North Carolina State University was reported as saying at the Blackland Cotton Field Day in Belhaven, N.C., last month. York suggested that a mandatory buffer might be appropriate around tobacco plantings and said he would support tighter record keeping, including time of day of spraying, wind speed and direction, along with estimated distance to tobacco.  "That will not keep someone from spraying beside a tobacco field if they want to, but perhaps it would make them think twice," he said in Southeast Farm Press
 
Assessing the hurricane damage: Still no hard numbers of dollar loss by tobacco growers to Hurricane Irma, but Georgia was by far the hardest hit. Georgia Extension tobacco specialist J. Michael Moore provided this report on the effects in his state. "We estimate that we lost 15 percent of the crop in Georgia to the storm in the form of leaves dropped in the field. There will probably be additional losses in the form of lowered quality in the leaves that survived and those in curing barns where power was interrupted.
 
Irma passed through Georgia on Monday September 11. Many areas reported six to 10 inches of rainfall with wind speeds of 50 to 70 mph. As much as 30 percent of the crop remained in the fields at that time. Harvesting continued until Saturday night. Sunday was breezy, with rain starting late in the afternoon in Tifton. "Generally, from 50 percent to 60 percent of the leaves still on the stalks were blown off, and others were bruised and torn as they whipped in the wind." Some leaf had to be abandoned because it deteriorated rapidly after the rains of Irma. Harvesting was finished by September 27.
 
It could have been worse: The losses would have been higher except that many farmers had purchased or rented generators to keep their curing barns going. Without these, the barns would have shut off when the electricity went out and the leaf could have suffered damage before it went back on.
 
Planting restraint urged in Brazil: The tobacco growers association of Brazil urged growers this spring to reduce plantings for the 2017/18 crop if they can. if not, they should plant no more than in the year just ended. Benicio Werner, president of the national organization, AFUBRA, said there is a worldwide decrease in consumption. "We cannot let farmers produce a quantity of tobacco that the market does not absorb," he said in an interview with Radio Gazeta. His recommendation--588.5 thousand tons of all types, including 520 thousand tons of flue-cured, 60 thousand tons of burley and 8.5 thousand tons of common "shed." The volume of the 2016/17 crop has been estimated at 695 thousand tons.
 
Grower numbers in Zimbabwe nearly triple: The number of growers who have registered to grow tobacco in 2017/18 has risen to 21.331 from 7,131 in 2016/2017, a 199 percent increase, according to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board.Farmers in Zimbabwe seem to have been satisfied with the average price of $2.97 per kilo that tobacco sold for this season and the 185.6 kgs that they produced and sold.
 
The demand for Malawian burley in the coming season is 130,000 tons, said the Tobacco Control Commission (TCC) of Malawi in September. For flue-cured, it is 25,000 tons and for dark fire-cured it is 5,000 tons, for a total of 160,000 tons. That would be up from 152,000 tons in the season just ended but still less than the year before. TCC also said that Malawi sold 106,000 tons of tobacco out of the 152,000 produced this year, and it was worth US$212 million. The size of the crop is controlled through a system of registration of farmer intentions and issuance of production quotas.


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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

WILL THE BURLEY CROP MAKE IT INTO THE BARN BEFORE FROST?

A migrant harvest crew from Latin America hand picks flue-cured leaf on a farm near Raleigh, N.C., in this file photo by Chris Bickers. 

An early frost in Kentucky could find much of the burley crop unharvested, says. grower-warehouseman Jerry Rankin of Danville, Ky. He has looked around at the progress of harvest and added up the number of workers available to finish the job--and he is concerned. "It's not so much that the crop is late, although some of it is. It is that we are behind in getting it cut and to the barn. Labor is too short to make up that difference before October 2, when we expect to get our first frost."

The labor crunch is also being felt in Tennessee and southwest Virginia, says Don Fowlkes, manager, agronomy, Burley Stabilization Corporation (BSC). "I think we will get this crop harvested and barned. But it would help if H2A arrivals were more dependable. There is little local labor and the productivity is reduced."

It seems likely that at least some of this Tennessee burley crop is not going to stay in the field long enough to achieve maximum yield. "Our farmers are not going to be able to wait," says Fowlkes. "It is a late crop, and they will have to harvest it a little early to get it all in before first frost." Normally, you like to leave tobacco in the field four to five weeks after topping. "But they might (but hopefully won't) have to cut some of this crop in three weeks or less," he says. Be prepared to close up your barn if it needs it, Fowlkes says. "With late hung tobacco, there is more risk of freeze damage," says Fowlkes. "And there is more risk of green color from cold winds. You want to be able to close the barn."

Burley prospects better: While the long-term outlook remains uncertain, the burley market is definitely in a more balanced position than it was at this time last year, says Daniel Green, chief operating officer, BSC. "The 2017 USA burley crop will likely end up in the range of 150-160 million pounds or just over 13.5 percent of total world production. It appears that world production of burley should total just over 1.1 billion pounds for 2017, more than 15 percent less than 2016." Based on current cigarette production, approximately 1.2 billion pounds of burley are currently needed worldwide to satisfy demand, resulting in a slight, short-term shortage. "African volumes will rebound quickly and any shortage that results in increased sales of flavor burley should be satisfied by the end of 2018."

Blown away? When the rain and wind of Hurricane Irma reached south Georgia on Sunday, perhaps 30 percent of the crop was still in the field, says J. Michael Moore, Extension tobacco specialist. By the time it passed through, maybe half had been blown down or had its leaves blown off or otherwise been rendered unsalvageable. And Moore wasn't too optimistic about what survived. "The leaves were beaten by the strong winds and that may cause them to mature so rapidly that farmers won't be able to pick them before they deteriorate. So it could be that very little of the remaining Georgia crop will make it to the buyer.

Florida was luckier. All of its tobacco was out of the field when the storm arrived, although some was still in the barn, says Moore.

Power outages as a result of the hurricane were the stuff of worldwide news reports. Loss of quality in barns that lost power were a serious threat to the tobacco in them, but many Georgia growers forestalled that problem by obtaining emergency generators of one type or another before the power went out, says Moore.


Diseases in the East: In eastern North Carolina, much of the upperstalk tobacco in the field is getting hammered by black rot, says Roy Thagard, Greene County Extension agent. Other diseases such as black shank and Granville wilt also continue to progress. "There is a fear that tobacco farmers will get poor grades for their tobacco going forward," Thagard says...In the Pied-mont, growers are harvesting tobacco as quick as barn space will allow, says Charles Mitchell, Franklin County, N.C., Extension agent. "We have seen an enormous amount of Granville wilt this year with some black shank as well." But there was one bit of good fortune: "We dodged a bullet when Hurricane Irma shifted westward," Mitchell says...In the mountains of western N.C., harvest of burley is nearly complete in Yancey County, says Stanley Holloway, County Extension agent... The season's first frost--a patchy one in some low-lying areas--took place on September 8 in Watauga County, in the N.C. mountains.

USDA issued its September Crop Report on September 12. But because it is based on a farmer survey conducted between August 25 and September 6, it is already out of 
date because storm activity. For the record, the production estimates for each type (but not the producing states) follow. Each projection is compared to the projection in the August report.  Flue-Cured:  473 million pounds, up four percent from the August Crop Report. Burley: 160.5 million pounds, no changeDark Fire-Cured: 59.6 million pounds, up  seven percent.  Dark Air-Cured: 20.3 million pounds, up 21 per cent.  Southern Maryland: 4.5 million pounds, no change.  Pennsylvania Seed leaf:  4.16 million pounds, no change.