Thursday, October 24, 2019


Buyers bid on leaf at American Tobacco Exchange warehouse in Wilson, N.C., at an auction on October 16.  Photo by the Editor.
Auction sales of flue-cured tobacco were in extreme doldrums in October. At a sale at the American Tobacco Exchange warehouse in Wilson, N.C., on October 16, the top price seemed to be around $1.20 a pound, and that was for some very good tobacco. A lot of the crop appeared to have been sold at $.90 a pound and some sold as low as $.75, which would obviously not cover the cost of production. 

Prices are too low, said Rick Smith, president of Independent Leaf Tobacco and one of the buyers at the sale. "I don't know how farmers are making any money the way things are. Some are going to have to think about leaving the crop. I know tobacco farmers aren't quitters but with no demand, this is a losing battle." 

Harvest is over in East N.C., South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. But some flue-cured is still in the field in the Piedmont area of western N.C. and perhaps some in Vir-ginia. 

The USDA's final proj-ection of crop vol-ume  for 2019 was that flue-cured will be down 15 percent in volume, in large part because of dry weather throughout the season and also the cat-astrophic effect of Hurricane Dorian in eastern North Carolina and South Carolina. But the burley crop was projected only eight percent downward, mainly because of good conditions that lead to a good yield in Kentucky.

Following are USDA's October projections for each of the types. For flue-cured and burley, projections by state are included.
  • North Carolina--212.4 million pounds, down 15.3 percent from last season. 
  • Virginia--30 million pounds, down 28.5 percent from last season. 
  • Georgia--18 million pounds, down 24.2 percent from last season. 
  • South Carolina--13 million pounds, down 38.5 percent from last season. 
  • All U.S. flue-cured--274 million pounds, down 24.1 percent from last season.
  • Kentucky--77.9 million pounds, down 2.6 percent from last season. 
  • Tennessee--6 million pounds, down 33.3 percent from last season. 
  • Pennsylvania--6 million pounds, down 31.8 percent from last season.
  • Virginia--1.2 million pounds, down 16 percent from last season. 
  • North Carolina--0.64 million pounds, down 42 percent from last season. 
  • All U.S. burley--91.8 million pounds, down 8.5 percent from last season.
  • Fire-cured--47.4 million pounds, down 19.5 percent from last season. 
  • Dark air-cured--27.6 million pounds, up 3.7 percent from last season. 
  • Pennsylvania seedleaf--5 million pounds, down 8.3 percent from last season. 
  • Southern Maryland--2.2 million pounds, down 28.5 percent from last season.   
ALL TOBACCO--448 million pounds, down 16 percent from last season.


In Malawi, our major competitor in burley, very dry weather reduced production, then the crop encountered a lackluster market, according to a leaf dealer. An average price (in US$/kilogram) of $1.32 had been achieved by the close of the market, down from $1.56 in 2018. There were an exceptional number of no sales which were allocated to the trade  at a very low average price of $0.50 per kilogram. Total volume sold was nearly 138 million kilograms, down from 164 million in 2018. 

Still beating a billion: Brazil flue-cured volume in 2020 is projected at 1.3 billion pounds, down slightly from 2019 but still dominating world pro-duction of the type. Brazilian burley production is estimated at 121 million pounds, down 15 percent from 2019. Transplanting of both types is nearly complete. Source: Hail & Cotton International Group.
Zimbabwe pounds up: The 2019 Zimbabwe flue-cured crop, just marketed, is estimated to have been 571.6 million pounds in volume, up 2.7 percent from the year before. The price was 2.02 per kilogram, down from 30 percent from the year before.

December 5, 9 a.m.-noon. N.C. Tobacco Day, Johnston County Extension Center,  Smith-field, N.C. Lunch will follow the program.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019


Last day of harvest--Rob Glover of Bailey, N.C., (between Wilson and Raleigh) finished barning his crop today (October 2), The season ended very dry, he says. "We got some rain from Hurricane Dorian, but it wasn't much, and we haven't had any since then." Above: Workers in one of Glover's fields. Photo by the Editor.

North Carolina: Three weeks after Dorian blew through, it appears that North Carolina was spared a huge loss from the hurricane. There was little flooding, and the severe winds didn't blow down too much of the crop. But the whipping effect off the wind caused a great deal of premature ripening, and the leaf deteriorated quickly. Some fields had to be abandoned. Some yield loss was obviously experienced, but an estimate can't be made just yet. The damage occurred almost entirely east of Interstate 95, in the southeastern corner of the Eastern Belt. Most of the tobacco in all east-ern North Carolina has been harvested or aban-doned by now, but the Old Belt has a good late crop, much of it still in the field, and harvest may continue till mid-October...USDA has esti-mated that 88 percent of the state flue-cured crop was harvested by Mon-day.

South Carolina: Everything is harvested that's going to be harvested, says S.C. area Extension agronomy agent for Horry, Marion and Dillon Counties. But that is hardly good news. The tobacco-growing area of S.C. were hit hard by Dorian, and quick ripening was a problem on much of it. Not all of that could be harvested, and a lot that was harvested is very dark and will be difficult to market. Also, some other leaf got sunscald after the torrential rains followed by 100-degree temperatures and may also turn out to be unmarketable.
Virginia: There's been no significant rainfall anywhere in Virginia's flue-cured-growing acres in six weeks. Much has been pulled but some still remains and probably will until mid October. That tobacco will probably have better yields...USDA estimated 95 percent of the Virginia crop has been harvested by September 30.

Georgia: Only one farmer is still harvesting tobacco in Georgia, at least as far as J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist, can tell. "He should finish this week." The tobacco that has already been cured appears thin, and this crop will be no better than average. There were many areas that got excessive rainfall on more than one occasion, leading to damaged root systems. And starting in May, there was almost constant heat. "I guess we should be happy that we got the yields we did," Moore says...

Florida experienced heat and excessive rain too and appears to have produced an average crop, says Moore. Harvest has been finished there for several weeks.


Kentucky: The temperature is sizzling in Kentucky, says Bob Pearce, Extension tobacco specialist. "It is predicted to be very hot and dry for three days. It is not likely that farmers will try to take down and strip their tobacco in these conditions: There is not enough moisture to get the leaf in case." As soon as that changes, farmers will start taking down in earnest, he says...Most of the Kentucky burley crop has been harvested, although a few farmers who have to work around labor issues may still have a way to go. "The earliest harvested tobacco looks good," says Pearce. "It is a little high in color as would be expected. Yield for the whole crop appears about average. The quality is fair."

Tennessee: Crabgrass is about the only thing growing in Wilson County, near Nashville, says Extension agent A. Ruth Correll. There were some spotty sprinkles but no significant rain last week. A few showers last Thursday helped out a little in Cheatham County, also near Nashville. "[But] we are still very dry," says Ronnie Barron, Extension agent. USDA estimates harvest at 94 percent.

North Carolina: Temperatures remained hot and above normal in Jackson and Swain County. "Some scattered-to-widespread thunderstorms dropped about a half inch of rainfall moistening and providing relief for the abnormally dry conditions," said Robert Hawk, Extension agent. USDA estimates harvest at 53 percent complete.

Virginia: In the burley-growing area of southwest Virginia, weather conditions are universally reported as much drier than normal. Minimal rainfall and 90-degree-weather continued in Smyth County last week. In Scott County, Extension agent Scott Jerrell said that without significant rainfall, a drought declaration will soon be forthcoming.

December 5, 9 a.m.--12 p.m. N.C. Tobacco Day, Johnston County Extension Center, Smithfield, N.C. Lunch will follow the program.