Sunday, December 22, 2019



The Southern Farm Show takes place at the North Carolina State Fair February 5 through 7.
The following list includes all exhibitors who would like to display their materials to tobacco farmers. Note: This list will be published once again later in January, so any exhibitor who has been left out may send additional information to

Jim Graham Bldg.  
· 222 Evans Mactavish Agricraft.
· 227 Kelley Mfg. Co. Agricultural equipment.
· 302 Hardee by EVH Manufacturing Co. Sprayers.
· 704 (also 8131) Agri Supply. Agricultural materials.
·807 Mechanical Transplanter Co. Transplanters & seeding equipment.
·808 BulkTobac (Gas Fired Products). Curing equipment and controls.

Kerr Scott Bldg. 
  • 1002 TriEst Ag Group. Fumigation supplies.
  • 1015 Yara North America. Fertility products.
  • 1107 Flue Cured Tobacco Services. Curing controls.
  • 1104 GoldLeaf Seed Co. Tobacco seed.
  • 1120 BeltWide Inc. Transplant technology.
  • 1115 Transplant Systems. Greenhouse systems.  
  • 1116 Cross Creek Seed. Tobacco seed.
  • 1121 AAA Scale Co.
  • 1201 Carolina Greenhouse & Soil Company.
  • 1202 Reddick Equipment Company Inc.  Manufacturer of spraying equipment.
  • 1213 H&H Farm Machinery. “Building sprayers your way since 1978.”
  • 1302 Mid-Atlantic Irrigation Co.
  • 1415 Spapperi (Italy). Setters and other tobacco mechanization.

Exposition Bldg.

  • 3127 (& 8611) Benchmark Buildings & Irrigation. Transplanters/irrigation.
  • 3135 Southern Container Corporation of Wilson. Bale sheets and packaging.  
  • 3308 Tobacco Growers Association of N.C.
  • 3311 Flame Engineering. Weed control with flame.
  • 3520 First Products Inc. Fertilizer boxes for cultivators and tool bars.
  • 3605 MarCo Mfg. Tobacco machinery.
  • 3714 Suretrol Manufacturing. Curing Control. 

Scott Tent

  • 7025 Drexel Chemical Company. Sucker control chemicals.
  • 7034 (&8012) Coastal AgroBusiness. A full-service agricultural solutions provider serving NC, SC, VA, ETN and NGA.
  • 7302 Fairbanks Scales Inc.
  • 7322 Transplant Systems. A growing system company.Tent 1
  • 5029 AmeriGas Propane. One stop shop for all propane needs.
  • 7334 BJ Williamson Greenhouses.

  • 8039 Vause Equipment Co. Farm equipment.
  • 8208 Wilson Manufacturing. Farm trailers.
  • 8204 Equipmax. Tobacco spray equipment.
  • 8217 Granville Equipment. Tobacco and Hemp Machinery.
  • 8301 De Cloet SRL. Tobacco machinery.
  • 8510 Walters Air Assist Plant Release System. Plant release system. 
  • 8516 Mobilift of Burlington, N.C. Forklift sales and service.
  • 8546 {& 227) Kelley Mfg. Co. Agricultural equipment.

Thursday, December 19, 2019


There is plenty of unsold leaf remaining from the U.S. 2019 crop if the Chinese want to buy it. But will they? This flue-cured leaf was sold to a dealer in Wilson, N.C., in October. Photo: Chris Bickers. 
The US/China trade deal is still evolving, and I can find no indication that it specifically includes tobacco at this point. 

If, as has been speculated, China agrees to buy $40 to $50 billion in U.S. agricultural commodities, that would seem like enough that tobacco could well hope to get some of it. But I see many imponderables here:

It has always been speculated that the original purchases by China of U.S. leaf were made to some degree for political purposes. Are the Chinese still interested in being popular in the tobacco states?

China has gone substantially without American tobacco for one full season with another one beginning soon. But it seems to have been able to get enough flue- cured to meet its needs from Brazil and Zimbabwe, mostly Brazil. Now, adverse weather caused Zimbabwe's just-harvest-ed crop to be of poor quality, perhaps not good enough for the Chinese, and Brazil had a shorter crop in 2019 so it may not have replenished its un-committed stocks. Poor quality in Zimbabwe and little excess leaf in Brazil mean the Chinese may feel pressure to buy some U.S. leaf for their top quality cigarettes.

I have heard it said often enough that I have to think there is some truthin it--that the Chinese involved in the American market like working with the U.S. Tobacco Cooperative-the flue-cured cooperative that handled most of the U.S. tobacco exported to the PRC--and would like to salvage a relationship with USTC if they can.

That's a long-winded way of saying there seem to be a lot of reasons that trade with PRC might revive sooner or later. But there are some enormous logistic reasons why it probably won't happen in time to affect the 2020 crop. Watch this space for more details.

A major leaf buyer says this: Pieter Sikkel, president, c.e.o. and chairman of Pyxus International, Inc., the parent company of the leaf dealer Alliance One International, issued the following statement on December 16 regarding the new trade agreement. 

"Pyxus applauds the initial trade agreement finalized by the United States and China [Friday] and both governments for their perseverance in reaching this consensus. The agreement is a welcome first step to reopening China's vast consumer market to U.S. agricultural products, including tobacco. While this compromise is only one piece of a much needed comprehensive trade agreement, and additional steps need to take place to restart leaf exports, it is an encouraging move in the right direction, helping to foster enhanced trade and promote greater opportunities for success in the global economy."

The stakes are considerable, as anyone who reads this publication knows. "In the year preceding the trade dispute, the U.S. exported $162 million worth of tobacco to China," said Sikkel. "Last year, that number decreased to only $4 million. This agreement should positively impact the U.S. agricultural industry and American tobacco farmers, who have been hit hard by the on-going trade dispute. We are excited to build on the positive momentum and are hopeful that this signifies sustainable progress in United States-China relations and gr eater economic opportunity for farmers."


A revitalized market in Argentina: In the meantime, Alliance One International is taking steps to restructure its Argentine leaf operations (AOTA) in anticipation of increases in exports and improved competitiveness on the global market. The main step will be relocating AOTA's laf-processing operations from El Carril in the Salta province to Philip Morris International's Argentine affiliate at Rosario de Lerma, also in Salta. This move will occur in time for the 2020 crop and will reflect a closer commercial relationship with PMI. AOTA will continue to contract with growers. "The restructuring of AOI's Argentine operations will help to improve overall efficiency and strengthen price competitiveness," said Sikkel.
In Brazil, harvest is well under way in the big tobacco-producing state of Rio Grande do Sul, according to a report from the leaf dealer Hail and Cotton. Due to excessive rainfall in October and early November and high winds and hailstorms, tobacco has been showing indications of premature yellowing and loss of yield.

Other tobacco news:

Cureco curing controls are no longer for sale at Cureco Inc. of Seven Springs, N.C., but they are still available from Suretrol, the Canadian company that invented the technology. Suretrol has an office in Wilson, N.C., at 5838 St. Rose Church Rd.. Interested farmers can go there or call the main switchboard at (252) 991-0533. Suretrol president Joe Bucek says the perfect heat and humidity control you get with Suretrol/Cureco equipment along with the flexibility of monitoring with a phone are its strongest points. 

Monday, December 9, 2019


One of the highlights of the N.C. Tobacco Day  program on December 5 was the presentation by Blake Brown, N.C. Extension ag economist, outlining the prospects for growth in sales on the world market. The outlook is not cheering.

Here are the factors that Brown thinks should be of most concern to farmers as they plan for 2020 (with a little analysis by the editor): 
  • The demand for combustible tobacco products continues its accelerated decline. 
  • There have been an avalanche of new smoking-related technologies in recent years, and unfortunately, all contain less tobacco per unit than do cigarettes. 
  • Even if the dispute with China were resolved now, we will still have the problem of selling inventories left from 2018. If it is resolved, the resumption of trade with China would positively impact U.S. sales in 2021 (although not likely 2020). But the overall trend is still declining sales. 
  • Some policy intervention could potentially improve the short-run outlook. 
  • There is one bright spot on the export scene: the continued growth in the demand for premium cigarette brands continues to grow among Asian consumers. This situation has benefited American cigarettes in the past. 
How farmers feel about the coming season--Tobacco Farmer Newsletter took the opportunity to interview several farmers at N.C. Tobacco Day. Here's what some had to say:

What can you count on? At times this season, the connection of quality in tobacco and profitability seemed turned on its head. The market just isn't going to work if that keeps up. Tim Yarbrough of Prospect Hill, N.C., noted, "There has to be some value in quality tobacco that the farmer can count on."

A morale problem: Steve Griffin, a flue-cured grower from Washington, N.C., and president of the Tobacco Growers Association of N.C., said that there is a growing frustration with the operation of the Tobacco GAP program among farmers, some of whom see no tangible return to the grower who complies with the program. "They see instances of GAP -  certified farmers who  lose their con-tracts while some farmers who are not compliant with GAP stay in business," he said. Excellence is the goal: It is hard to maintain morale in this situation, he said. "GAP should reward excellence," he added.

Bad weather lead to "terrible" yields on the tobacco produced in 2019 at the Oxford (N.C.) research station, said Carl Watson, tobacco research specialist for thestation. "We produced 2,000 pounds per acre, while we normally average 3,000 and 3,200 pounds per acre," he said at Tobacco Day. "This was a year we want to forget."

Time for an upward bounce? Mack Grady, flue-cured grower from Seven Springs, N.C., thought there was reason for a little hope for 2020. "I know agriculture is at a low point now, but maybe things are about to brighten up," he said. "It takes a while for the ball to hit the floor before it bounces, and we are about due."

An award at Tobacco Day: Zane Hedgecock received the "Tobacco Great" award,
which is conferred by the N.C. State agriculture faculty on members of the tobacco family who have made significant contributions to the industry. Hedgecock is chief of staff at the N.C. Department of Agriculture.

See future issues of TFN for further reporting on other presentations at N.C. Tobacco Day.


Zimbabwe price plummets: The average price on the tobacco market was the lowest in 10 years. A tobacco farmer about 125 miles north of Harare told the Zimbabwean publication Fin 24, "This year I increased my tobacco planting area and spent more money than before, but after selling I have nothing to show for it. I even failed to meet all my debts. Getting back into the field this coming season is going to be a challenge. I see farmers scaling down production or pull[ing] out from tobacco farming altogether."
How one leaf merchant is looking at 2020: The leaf dealer Pyxus (formerly Alliance One) remains focused on maintaining low levels of uncommitted in-ventory, said Pieter Sikkel, chairman, president and CEO in his company's quarterly report. "While some markets continue to present certain challenges, such as the U.S., which remains impacted by the ongoing trade tensions with China, we are encouraged by other markets," he said.