CROP CONDITIONS AFTER IRMA
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.
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.