The burley crop just coming on the market has been projected at 90 million pounds, says Daniel Green, chief operating officer, Burley Stabilization Corporation. The numbers may end up a little higher by the end of the delivery season, but Green says it will not go higher than 100 million lbs. Either volume would be the smallest burley crop since records have been kept.
The shortfall resulted in part from the substantial cutbacks in plantings last spring (20 percent according to USDA), but late-season rains were the big factor. Some fields were drowned out by these rains, and leaf drop was a problem too. NOTE: Burley deliveries will begin in earnest next week.
Despite yield losses, the quality of this burley crop is decent, says Green, similar to the last two crops. "You could call this crop 'low in volume but acceptable in quality'," he says. "But much of the leaf is thin. There isn't a lot of the good-bodied redder styles that buyers are looking for."
Considering the circumstances, the sales season at Big M Warehouse in Wilson, N.C. (all flue-cured), went fairly well, says owner Mann Mullen. "We sold some tobacco for more than $2 a pound," he says. "But the practical top was probably more like $1.88." One big surprise: Some scrap tobacco sold for $.35 to $.75 a pound. And those prices held toward the end, when leaf prices fell off," he says. That was one of several indications that the market has changed its preferences, but Mann can't figure out what the changes are. "What is quality in flue-cured? I used to know but I don't know any more," he says. Mann is very apprehensive about next season, but for whatever it is worth, all tobacco offered at his warehouse found a buyer. There will be one more sale on November 28.
AOI's Farmville (N.C.) plant will no longer process leaf. Alliance One is moving all its U.S. tobacco processing to its Wilson, N.C., facility. AOI's processing operations in Farmville, N.C., will be relocated (tentatively) by the beginning of the 2019 season. Some processing jobs will shift from Farmville to Wilson, and the Farmville facility will be "repurposed" for storage and special projects. But a workforce reduction in Farmville is nevertheless expected. "Consolidating our U.S. tobacco processing operations in Wilson is designed to maximize efficiency and allows us to continue to competitively deliver value-added products and services to our customers," said Pieter Sikkel, c.e.o. of AOI's parent cor-poration Pyxus International. The move was caused in part by new and increased tariffs on U.S. tobacco, declining export demand and the strong U.S. dollar, a statement by the company said.
In other leaf news:
Hot market in Malawi: As reported in the last issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. Malawi's burley market (which ended in August) enjoyed much more sales volume than expected. It has now been learned that part of that excess--roughly 30 million pounds--may have been tobacco from growers in the neighboring countries of Mozambique and Tanzania, indicating the strong market in Malawi late in the season.
Hurricane spares tobacco in Cuba: Hurricane Michael touched Pinar Del Rio, the western end of Cuba and its leading cigar-producing province. But damage to the tobacco crop--which occurred mainly on October 8--was limited and can be managed, said the president of the leading cigarette manufacturer, Justo Luis Fuentes. In the newspaper La Prensa, Fuentes said, "We have the necessary resources to repair the damaged crops." According to preliminary reports, about 60,000 nurseries were lost, along with some planted hectares and 12 tobacco barns. Fortunately, this was very early in the season not much of the crop was in the field.
Mark your calendar: N.C. Tobacco Day, December 6 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Johnston County Extension Center, Smithfield, N.C. Lunch will follow the program.