Thursday, November 16, 2017


 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         --Chris Bickers

A Letter to the Editor

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. 
  • 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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