Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More on the marketing of this tobacco crop

Dark fire-cured near Springfield, Tn.
Dark tobacco awaits harvest near Springfield, Tn.
The best quality dark air- and fire-cured crop in Ken-tucky and Tennessee since 2006 is making its way to delivery stations, says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist. "So far, weights look good. I haven't heard of a 4,000-pound yield yet, but I know of some fire-cured yields in the 3,800 to 3,900 pound range and some air-cured yields of 3,400 pounds." Quality appears to be good, he says. "I have heard no major complaints from the buyers." Over two thirds of the two types have been received, says Bailey. "We will still be delivering in January and February." Kenneth Smith, leader of the Eastern Dark Fired Tobacco Growers Association, says it is "a good useable crop, one of the best we have had in a while. But it is not huge. I have heard that the companies are taking excess tobacco when they see it and it looks like all is going find a home." There is some concern about moisture, says Smith. "We have had a lot of rain since November 1. Farmers have been stripping as fast as they can." The weather has been good for taking fire-cured tobacco down but some of the air-cured tobacco has been too wet to take down and strip.Receiving began the first week of October for the second year, he says. The opening date used to take place in November, but the companies helped relieve some of delivery pressure by going to an earlier start in 2010. A note on the burley in the area: A leaf dealer who buys in middle Tennessee and western Kentucky says the burley crop there is coming in unusually slow. "I have never seen anything like this," he says. "It is an above average crop and its selling good but it is coming off the farm very slow." Bailey tells Tobacco Farmer Newsletter that the slow delivery is probably just an effect of high moisture. "Growers are having to wait on stripping until moisture levels go down even though curing has been complete for several weeks."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What would you grow if you didn't grow tobacco? A recent survey conducted by the Center for Tobacco Grower Research (CTGR) asked farmers what enterprise would most likely be the substitute if they had to replace tobacco. Cows and calves ranked number one with burley farmers while grains were said to have the most potential by flue-cured and dark tobacco production.

Extension specialist moves to research: Sandy Stewart, who has served since January of 2010 as an Extension tobacco specialist in N.C., will become the director of the Research Stations division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture on December 19. He will succeed Eddie Pitzer, who retired in September. Despite tight budgets, sources at N.C. State University tell TFN that there is a very good chance that this position will be re-filled, since industry support will be used to fund it. But the next individual who fills it may be a research associate rather than a specialist.

A longtime county Extension agent joins seed company: Scott Shoulars, formerly director of the Rockingham County (N.C.) Extension office, now serves as field agronomist for Cross Creek Seed in Raeford, N.C. He operates out of his home in Reidsville, N.C. To reach him, call 336 601 9512.  

Tar Heel tobacco growers: N.C. State will hold another Tobacco Short Course starting January 30, and ending February 3. Thanks to the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund, the course is free. See your county Extension agent for details.

Most of the information in this segment is derived from the December issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter, edited by Chris Bickers, 903-9 Shellbrook Ct., Raleigh, N.C. To receive the newsletter in your email, call 919 789 4631 or email chrisbickers@ gmail.com.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The burley market has been “extraordinary” so far

That is the only way to describe it, says Roger Quarles, a grower in Georgetown, Ky.The price actually seems to be going up at this time. Most years, that is not the case.” Another thing that is not usually the case: Prices at auctions have at times been higher than contract prices. Some of the demand on the auction market has come from farmers trying to buy other farmers’ tobacco to fill out their contracts, says Quarles. Some in fact seem to have a strategy of filling any underproduction from auctions rather than planting so much that overproduction is likely. But there wasn’t any overproduction this season. “We are going to be really short on weight,” says Brian Furnish of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association. “We didn’t have any serious weather problems. The weight is just short compared to recent years.” The quality is better than the last two years, he says. Furnish estimates that prices have averaged $1.75 per pound to $1.80 per pound for most of the crop, with the best bringing $1.82 to $1.82 per pound.

For growers who had flue-cured to sell, this turned out to be a good market, says Rick Smith, leaf dealer from Wilson, N.C. Volume is still unclear, but he thinks about 380 million pounds entered the trade, at an average of perhaps $1.78 to $1.80 per pound. “We would have hoped to average a little more,” he says. “That is not going to be enough to keep some farmers viable. Insurance won’t make them whole either.”

Any shortfall in U.S. flue-cured has been more than made up by the big crop in Brazil, estimated by Universal Leaf at over 1.5 billion pounds.  This is the largest Brazilian crop since 2005. It is 200 million pounds higher than initial forecasts. Burley production in Brazil is up 30 percent, Universal says.

The above material is derived from the Tobacco Farmer Newsletter, scheduled for mailing December 12. If you are not already on the email list to receive the newsletter, send your name, email address, postal address what tobacco type you grow (if any) to chrisbickers@gmail.com.