Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Friday, September 14, 2012
Final harvest of flue-cured tobacco near Seven Springs, N.C., September 12.
USDA issued its September crop report Wednesday showing that flue-cured production is up a projected 44 million pounds since its August report, for a total current projection of 490.2 million pounds. According to the report, which is based on a farmer survey asking about conditions as of September 1, all that increase took place in North Carolina, where plentiful--but for the most part not excessive--rainfall allowed growers to produce an extra 43.5 million pounds since the August report for a total for the state of 390 million pounds (up 57 percent over 2011). Among the other flue-cured states: The Virginia projection is down slightly from last month for a total of 48 million pounds (up 10 percent from 2012) while the South Carolina projection is about the same as last month at 27 million pounds (up two percent from 2012). Georgia is up 1.1 million pounds since last month thanks to a 100-pound expected increase in yield to 2,400, putting production at 25.2 million pounds (down almost six percent from 2012). Florida doesn't participate in the survey, but Extension tobacco specialist J. Michael Moore tells Tobacco Farmer Newsletter that thanks to Tropical Storm Debbie, production there will be substantially reduced. "About 300 of the original 850 acres planted could not be harvested. Also, the excessive water washed out nutrients so that the yield was off considerably. This is a very nitrogen-deficient crop. It didn't develop a lot of the normal characteristics." TFN will have an estimate of production in Florida as soon as it is available.
Burley production is up too, but not as much. It is expected to total 195 million pounds, up nine million pounds from the August report and up 13 percent from last year. Kentucky and Tennessee accounted for nearly all the increase in the last month. The projection for Kentucky was up 5.7 million pounds at 140.6 million pounds (up 10 percent over last year), while for Tennessee it was up about two million pounds at 30.4 million pounds (up nearly 35 percent from 2011). It seems a little hard to believe, but the crop report projected North Carolina burley production at 3.515 million pounds, which if true would be a whopping 30 percent more than was projected in August. The editor will research this point and try to substantiate it next month. Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio projected roughly the same as last month. No other burley states participate in the survey.
Among other types: Dark fire-cured is projected down two percent at 50.8 million pounds, dark air-cured down seven percent at 14.8 million pounds, Southern Maryland is up 11.1 percent at 6.6 million pounds and cigar types up 14 percent at 8.7 million pounds.
More on alternatives to contracting...
Sealed bids for the best possible price? Big M Tobacco is now selling flue-cured tobacco by way of what it calls a "sealed bid" auction at the Liberty Warehouse in Wilson, N.C. Buyers inspect the bales, mark their bids on a sheet, seal it in an envelope and give it to manager Greg Ray. When all buyers have submitted their bid, Ray opens them, determines the high bid and informs the grower. He has the option of rejecting the bid, but Ray says that has very rarely happened. "We have competition with eight or 10 buyers at each sale, and the sealed bid gives the buyer a lot of incentive to make his bid at the highest level he can afford," says Ray. "We feel this system gives the farmers the best chance at getting the highest price." The warehouse can sell 200,000 pounds per sale. "So far this season we are selling once a week, but we will begin twice a week sales later," Ray says. "Last season, our volume was about 6.5 million pounds." Call Ray at 252-799-6061 for more information.
Where to sell tobacco that doesn't have a home: A new company in Seven Springs, N.C., is providing a new and completely legal avenue for tobacco farmers to sell tobacco that doesn't have a home. Joseph Parker and Mack Grady, who are both associated with the Cureco company in Seven Springs, have formed Whitehall Trading Co. It is already buying tobacco from the current crop (for now, flue-cured only). "The goal of Whitehall Trading Co. is to give the farmer an alternate method of marketing all grades of tobacco, including the lesser-quality grades," says Grady. "But it can't be wet or damaged. It should be in clean and dry condition." He notes that the program Whitehall is following complies with all pertinent regulations. "Our books are clean, and our customers' books will be clean as well." So far, Whitehall's early sales have all gone to a single tobacco company. But Grady and Parker expect there will be more purchasers before the season is over. For more information, call Parker at 252-559-0061.
Buy "A Brief History of North Carolina Tobacco" by Billy Yeargin, from History Press. The days when rural life revolved around tobacco planting and harvest are gone, but many fondly remember when North Carolina was the state of farming, planting and picking tobacco. In this book, historian Yeargin takes readers back to the days when communities were founded and built upon tobacco culture, and when traditions developed as industries were born. For a copy, send $21.99 to 112 N. Webb St., Selma, N.C. For more information, email Yeargin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also available: A companion work called "Remembering North Carolina Tobacco," also by Yeargin. Retail price is $19.99. Specify which or both books you want and send check or money order, made out to Billy Yeargin, at the above address.
Monday, September 10, 2012
|Workers pick through flue-cured |
leaf near Wendell, N.C.
The first leaf auction of the year took place on August 28 at the Old Belt Tobacco warehouse in Rural Hall, N.C., near Winston-Salem. The next is scheduled for Tuesday, September 11. "We sold 155,000 pounds, all flue-cured. Buyers and sellers were well satisfied. "The first sale went real well," says Dennis White, who is manager of the warehouse.The bidding was very strong, and every lot on the floor attracted a bid. There was no ticket tearing." Top quality lugs brought $1.80 per pound, and second quality brought about $1.65. "There was very little real cheap tobacco," says White. "Any that had any color sold for $1.60. 'Dead' tobacco brought $1." There were six buyers, with Independent Leaf Tobacco and Bailey's Cigarettes particularly active. White plans on selling on each Tuesday for the rest of the season and is prepared to sell on as many additional days as necessary to move all the tobacco that farmers bring. The next sale will be on and White expects to sell 250,000 pounds. Later in the season, burley will also be sold.
Auction sales in Kentucky will get under way in November. "Our first sale will take place the second Monday in November," says Jerry Rankin, a burley grower/ warehouse owner in Danville, Ky. "We will have as many sales per week as we need to accommodate this crop. We can sell two or three days a week if necessary. We expect to move about half a million pounds per sale." No scheduling is required, but you can reach Rankin at 859-319-1400. "Bring it in and we will sell it," says Rankin. "No amount is too small." Other auctions are expected to be held in the Lexington and Mount Sterling markets and perhaps some others. Editor's note: If you are operating an auction warehouse in any state for any type, please send descriptive information to me at email@example.com and I will run it in a future issue.
Watch for the next issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter in about a week, featuring an analysis of the September USDA Crop Report. Till then, following are some brief notes on the crop at this point:
There was an exorbitant amount of rain in North Carolina counties close to Wilmington late in August. "It rained 12 days straight at one point," says Alan Wooten of Currie. "And they were torrential." The crop can be saved but some yield reduction seems likely.
Tobacco in Mecklenburg County on the southern border of Virginia was affected by heat and drought. "I think the heat did us more harm than the dry weather," Bruce Hall, a farmer who grows about 80 acres of tobacco, told the Richmond Times Dispatch. He said his crop looks good on balance, but "those 100-degree days really affected the tobacco, and I'm thinking it is going to cut the yield maybe 10 percent on some of it."
An odd year in Kentucky, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Basically our burley looks pretty good, and we should have at least an average crop, maybe a bit better than average in some places. Our production should be close to USDA projections." Roughly 50 percent of the state's burley had been harvested through Labor Day, and farmers were just getting into curing, he said. Unirrigated burley in the west part of the state was showing some effects of drought.
The burley crop in Tennessee may be slightly above average, says Paul Denton, Tennessee Extension tobacco specialist. "There is a little black shank, a little drowning, but for the most part it looks good," he says.
About 40 percent of the Georgia crop remained to be harvested at the Labor Day break, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco agronomist. "It is holding up pretty well," he says. Harvest of the Debby-damaged Florida crop is complete, says Moore.