Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Will the short U.S. crops of 2018 lead to aggressive buying?

Who is going to buy our tobacco? Boxes and hogsheads of leaf in a Universal Leaf warehouse at the company's facility in Nashville, N.C.. await shipping earlier this year.

The size of the American burley crop is still up for debate, but it seems likely that at least some customers will not get as much as they originally wanted. "I said back at the beginning of the season that we would probably need 100 to 110 million pounds to meet the demand," says Will Snell, Kentucky Extension tobacco economist. "Now, I don't know if we are going to have that much. However, now I'm not sure the short crop will warrant aggressive buying by the companies given sluggish demand."

The crop in the Bluegrass was dismal. "Many farmers produced a yield of less than 2,000 pounds," says Snell. "You can't justify labor and oth-er costs with that low of a yield."

Our best hope for export sales? South-east Asia, said Blake Brown, N.C. Exten-sion economist, at the recent N.C. To-bacco Day. "The As-ian slice [of world cigarette sales] is huge," he says. Although sales there are mainly low-cost brands, the market for premium cigarettes is growing. In the short term, the chances for increased exports are largely dependent on resolution of the trade conflict with China. 

Two recognized by N.C. State: Parker Phillips, sales representative for Fair Products, and Richard Reich, retired Assistant N.C. Commissioner of Agriculture, each were awarded the "Tobacco Great" award at N.C. Tobacco Day. The award, conferred by 
the N.C. State agriculture faculty, is given to members of the tobacco family who have made significant contributions to the industry. Editor's Note: Watch for further coverage of N.C. Tobacco Day in the next issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter.

Menthol in trouble? The Food and Drug Administration announced it will seek a ban on menthol products. The Congressional leadership in tobacco states cried foul. N. C. Senator Richard Burr, "It is troubling, however, that an Administration that pledges to put America first is targeting legal, American-made products instead of focusing its attention on states that flout federal drug laws. If the United States continues down
this path, we will be following in Canada's footsteps, banning menthol but legalizing recreational drug use."

Despite hurricanes in the east and long hard late-season rains in the west, much of 2018 crop is reportedly of good quality--or at least better than expected. "What we have been buying so far has been a good, useable style of tobacco," says Don Fowlkes, agronomist with the Burley Stabilization Corporation in Greeneville, Tn. "This looks like one of the better-colored burley crops we have had in some time." There is a significant amount of dark colored leaf, with much of it getting FR grades, he says. "But we also have some black leaf that suffered houseburn," he adds.

Yields are another matter. The extended excessive rains that seemed to fall everywhere in the Tennessee tobacco-growing area drastically reduced production on many farms, says Fowlkes.

In the Deep South, it was a very rainy season, and in fact the rains are still falling. "We still have cotton and peanuts in the field," says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. But Georgia and Florida suffered no effects from Florence and Michael since they arrived right after the crops were finished. Therewere a few cases where leaf that was already harvested in barns or in storage was damaged.

The rains were enough to reduce yields in Georgia and Florida, and it was a thin to light crop. "But many buyers have said that they were pleased with the quality," Moore says.

Don't fall back on black shank:You can expect Georgia-Florida growers to use the full arsenal of weapons available for black shank control, says Moore. Besides rotation and resistant varieties, he predicts that a chemical program of Orondis in the transplant water, Presidio at first plowing and Ridomil at layby will be frequently used.

Record-setting crop in Zimbabwe: Tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe produced a record crop 2018 of 556 million pounds, according to the Chinese press agency Xinhua. The country's previous production record was 520 million pounds, produced in 2000. The 2018 production was also 34 percent higher than the season before.

Hats off to Universal for lasting 100 years in an industry as tough as tobacco. In 1918, the Virginia tobacco merchant Jacquelin P. Taylor and five other tobacco merchants consolidated to form Universal Leaf Tobacco Company, making this year its centennial.


  • January 30, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C.
  • January 31, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C. 
  • February 1, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Southern Farm Show. N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C.
  • February 1, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tobacco Growers Association of N.C. Annual Meeting, Holshouser Building, N.C. State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, N.C. (in conjunction with Southern Farm Show).