Sunday, December 20, 2020



There won't be any scenes like this at the N.C. State Fair Grounds on Feb. 3-5. That's because the 2021 Southern Farm Show--scheduled for those dates--has been cancelled. (Photo taken at the 2020 show by Chris Bickers.) 

Another farm event went down to the Pandemic when the Southern Farm Show for 2021 was canceled because of difficulties complying with COVID regulations. I am going to fill the information gap the cancellation has created by devoting much of the January III issue to reporting on new tobacco machinery, chemistry and any thing else that would have had a had a prominent part at the show fr tobacco farmers. So, manufacturers, if you have something that you think deserves to be brought to the farmers' attention, call me at 919 789 4631. You can include hemp machinery too if you have a good candidate. 

Welcome to the December II, 2020, issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter regularly, please email your subscription request to TFN at Include phone number and your affiliation with tobacco, such as farmer, buyer, dealer or Extension agent.

What not to do if you are planting new flue-cured varieties: Don’t plant more than a few barns your first year, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist, and don’t plant highly resistant cultivars in the absence of recognized pesticide programs. “Don’t plant into fields that have not been tested for nematodes and treated where appropriate,” Vann says. 

The still-new flue-cured variety NC 1226, which was available to farmers this past season, isn’t immune to black shank, but in tests, it has shown the highest level of black shank resistance across multiple locations. Yield was comparable to K 326. 

Greenhouse season is about to commence in the Deep South, and J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist, advises going back to the basics. “Remember the disease that is the biggest problem in the greenhouse is tobacco mosaic virus,” he says. “Make sure everybody who goes into your greenhouse avoids spreading the disease from the tobacco products they use. And when you start clipping, remember that regularly using a 10 percent chlorine bleach solution to wash the mower will really reduce spread of TMV.” 

Just as I close this issue, I’ve heard a reliable report that Altria will not accept contract deliveries of Georgia flue-cured at the warehouse it has used for many years in Nashville, Ga. Georgia growers can still seek contracts from Altria, but they will have to deliver to a warehouse in North Carolina. This will substantially increase grower costs of transportation and may discourage some from contracting with Altria. Note: I have not been able to confirm all this, so if any reader can provide further details, feel free to do so at the phone number above. 

This is not the first time: An Altria delivery station in Kentucky was closed before the current season. Altria had been accepting deliveries for some time in Elizabethtown but withdrew from that location. Farmers who formerly delivered there are now redirected to Danville, Ky., which can mean an extra two hours in transportation time. 


A tariff on tobacco and sweet potatoes was announced by the European Union at the end of November. It plans to impose a 25 percent tariff. The effect will depend in part on how long tobacco companies think the tariff will remain in place, said Blake Brown, N.C. Extension economist.

A History of Burley Tobacco for the Coming Year 

I am very happy to let you know that I have recently helped write a short history of burley in Kentucky and its neighboring states. I and my co-author Billy Yeargin, tobacco historian and faculty member at Duke University, named the book The Bluegrass and Beyond to signify that white burley first appeared in the Bluegrass but has moved well beyond that area since. The core of the book is an oral history section composed of interviews with 14 burley tobacco growers who have grown the crop long enough to have special insights on burley pro-duction. And Billy has updated his popular essay on the auction marketing system over the history of American tobacco and uses it to end the book. If you would like a copy, the price is $20, plus $8 shipping and handling for those delivered by the US Postal Service (alternate delivery methods can be discussed). To order, write to me--Chris Bickers--at 7413 Six Forks Rd., No. 126, Raleigh NC 27615. Questions? Call me at 919 789 4631 or email me at

Wednesday, December 2, 2020



Prices were way up at the first burley auctions of the year at Farmers Tobacco Warehouse in Danville, Ky. Among those cheered was owner Jerry Rankin (above). File photo by Chris Bickers.

The market opens hot for 2020 burley. Farmers Tobacco Warehouse in Danville, Ky., has held the first two auctions of the season, on November 24 and December 1, and the results were very good at both. Some lots of red tobacco sold at a high price of $1.90 per pound, much higher than last year. About 30 percent of the offerings sold for a strong $1.80 to $1.85.

The reason for the high price is simple—buyers need burley, and there will not be enough to go around. “There is going to be a demand for this crop, and buyers aren't going to get near what they need,” says Jerry Rankin, owner of Farmers. He thinks that burley production in this country will fall between 42 and 45 million pounds, much less than what USDA projected in its report in October, the last of the season. If his assessment is anywhere near the actual total, you can expect intense buyer interest right up to the end of the market.

The sales results might have been better still if all of it had been “new tobacco,” says Rankin. “As it was, 25 to 30 percent of the offerings were carryover which sold for $1.50 to $1.70.”

Many parts of the burley belt suffered low yields because of weather, but Rankin thinks one of the big factors in the small production was that many farmers decided not to plant last spring even though they might well have had the opportunity to contract if they had pursued it. Others planted way short of what they needed to make their contracts.

But there were some new growers. A small but nevertheless significant portion of the farmers at the Danville sales were Amish growers from Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and western Kentucky. “A few had never grown burley before this season,” Rankin says.

Another burley auction was delayed: Big Burley Warehouse in Lexington, Ky., was scheduled to open November 24 also but that was delayed till probably December 9, says owner Darby Montgomery. “We haven’t had enough tobacco to conduct a sale,” he says. “Stripping is running behind in this area.”

For further information on either burley warehouse, call Rankin at PH 859 319 1400 or Montgomery at PH 859 233 9944).

Flue-cured auctions came to an end Tuesday with a cleanup sale in Rural Hall, N.C. Dennis White, owner of Old Belt Tobacco warehouse, reported that he was well pleased with the season. “Though the tonnage was short, the prices were a lot better than last year,” he says. “In many cases, prices were within 10 cents of contract.”

For the season, White estimates that leaf at his warehouse averaged $1.85 for B2s, $1.60 to $1.65 for C2s and around $1.30 for X2s. He sold six and one half million pounds from beginning to end.

The big surprise, says White, was the drastically increased price for cut rag, which he said averaged between 65 and 85 cents. "Evidently there is a shortage," he says.

A small amount of burley was brought to the Rural Hall warehouse, and despite the fact that it was in small bales that are not preferred by manufacturers, all of it found a buyer, most of it at $1.65 a pound. Most came from a single Virginia farmer, White says.

The China comeback? White saw evidence that Chinese buyers are planning to return to the U.S. market: Every time he had some lemon leaf (the style traditionally associated with Chinese demand), his regular buyers would compete vigorously for it. “Now who else but the Chinese would they be buying this for?”

Another tobacco warrior moves on: Bill Maksymowicz, the longtime agronomist at Burley Stabilization Corporation died last week. Before he joined the BSC staff, he worked for several years with Vector Corporation and before that, he served on the faculty of the University of Kentucky for 13 years. I believe much of that time was spent on the staff of the Princeton Research Station; anyway, somewhere in there he shared with me substantially all I know now about dark tobacco, which has often proved very valuable for me. I know it's a cliche, but he will be missed. Funeral services will be held December 4 at 3 PM at the Robertson County Funeral Home in Springfield.


Canada--The earliest frost in southern Ontario since 1982 took place on September 19, says Mitchell Richmond, team leader for the Canadian Tobacco Research Foundation. “Almost all tobacco left in the field at that point was lost, with the exception of some localized areas where farmers were able to keep harvesting,” he says. But overall, everything that was harvested was on par for yield and quality, he says.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Pleading for a price is Chuck Jordan, auctioneer (second from left), at the tobacco auction at Rural Hall, N.C. Standing at far left is Dennis White, owner of the warehouse.


Don’t sign up for Mandarin lessons just yet, but sources in the industry think there may—and I emphasize may—be some chance of a resumption of tobacco sales to China in the not too distant future. I have heard this from three individuals, none of whom wanted to be quoted. But all are optimistic that the Chinese market has a need for U.S. tobacco. No one has details other than that inventories of the 2018 flue-cured crop will likely be the source of the first purchases, if indeed any take place.

How small will the flue-cured crop eventually turn out to be? USDA had earlier estimated 235 million pounds. Universal Leaf's usually reliable estimate for November was 229 million pounds. But one of my most reliable sources has suggested to me that because late-season hurricane damage has been larger than generally recognized, the crop will more likely fall between 210 and 205 million pounds.

I ran into two tobacco legends still working the auctions this fall, when auctioneer Chuck Jordan and buyer Mac Bailey took a few minutes to talk to me at the October 20 sale in Rural Hall. Jordan lamented how the auction industry has shrunk over the years but said he would continue calling sales until auctions come to an end or until he gives out physically, whichever comes first. He remains committed to the auction philosophy. “The auction is still the best way to ensure that growers get a fair price,” he said.

Looking for tobacco that was a good value for the price, Bailey, president of the dealer Golden Leaf Tobacco Co. of Keysville, Va., was following the line in Rural Hall when I ran into him. It was the day the market price went up a bit, and Bailey analyzed the situation for me. “It’s a different style of tobacco than what we are used to,” he said. “But under the circumstances, I am surprised it hasn’t brought more.”

Bailey tried running a warehouse of his own in Clarksville, Va., in 2019, but he told me he couldn’t justify continuing it this year. “There just wasn’t enough overage tobacco to support an auction in that area,” he said. “I couldn’t see that I could sustain an auction with those numbers.”
Wanted: A new tobacco specialist in Ontario-- The Canadian Tobacco Research Foundation (CTRF) is looking for a team leader to oversee all aspects of the established applied research program for flue-cured tobacco production in South Ontario. The individual will be stationed in Tillsonburg. Those interested should contact Mitchell Richmond at mitchell.richmond

Plans for the annual meeting of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina, initially set for February 5 at the Southern Farm Show in Raleigh, are now unsettled. Covid regulations my make it impossible to hold the meeting in any of the Show buildings. Watch this space for information as it becomes available.


Zimbabwe--Could cotton replace tobacco? That's what the vice president of Zimbawe, Saulos Chilima, believes. He said in mid November in the Malawi 24 online publication, “Cotton is one strategic crop that must be promoted. The cotton industry could be the country’s game changer to take over from tobacco in the wake of anti-smoking lobbies and become the country’s green gold.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: GapConnections has made some changes in its approach to providing certification to growers. At TFN's request, it has provided details here.

Options for Growers to Complete GAP Training in 2021

Looking towards 2021, tobacco growers will have options for completing their requirements for GAP Training. GAP Training provides growers current information from research and new information from the three pillars of crop, environmental and labor management practices. GAP Connections is working with our Extension partners in each state to develop training for growers to either attend in-person or complete on-line or complete by mail. All GAP Training for the coming season must be completed by June 30.

In-person Training: In some states, growers may have the option to attend in-person training, but not in every state. Please check with your county extension office or check the GAPC website at connections .com/training for in-person training near you.

On-line Training: Growers will have the option to complete 2021 training through their Grower Dashboard on the GAP Connections website at Grower ID number and password will be needed. Growers will have a selection of videos to pick from covering crop, environmental, and labor management topics for flue, air and dark tobacco types and labor courses based on the type of labor hired by the farm. Upon completion of each video, the grower will take a quiz and earn credits toward each management practice. Growers must score a 100 percent on each quiz for training credits to be recorded. On-line training offers the grower flexibility in completing training. A grower may login and complete crop training one day and come back another day to complete the environmental and labor training. On-line training offers the opportunity to complete training on your own schedule. On-line training will launch on January 11 and must be completed by June 30. Growers can check their Training Report to make sure training is completed by checking the Training Report on their Grower Dashboard at www. gap

Mail Training: GAP Connections is working with Extension to assemble a 2021 Tobacco Information Booklet with information on crop, environmental, and labor management practices. Growers completing training by mail will complete and return a quiz covering the information from the booklet. Growers must score a minimum 70 percent on the quiz for 2021 GAP Training to be recorded. Requests for the 2021 Tobacco Information Booklet and Quiz for mail training can be made by contacting GAP Connections at (865) 622-4606 or emailing All quizzes must be completed and returned to GAP Connections postmarked no later than June 30.

Training and Certification: All growers listed on the Certification Application (Primary and Associates) and participating in the GAP Connections Certification Program must complete training by June 30. Training can be completed by either one of the three options; in-person, on-line or mail. Applications for the 2021 GAP Connections Certification Program will be available on January 11 on the Grower Dashboard at connections. com or by requesting a paper application from GAP Connections by calling (865) 622-4606 or emailing The application deadline is April 15, 2021.

For more information on the GAP Connections Certification Program, you can go to https: // or contact the GAP Connections office.

EDITOR'S NOTE; This is the November II issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter regularly or if you need to change an address, please click on "Join our mailing list" and follow the prompts. For more information, you can call me at 919-789-4631 or email me at


Friday, November 6, 2020



Nearing the end: Buyers bid vigorously for tobacco at the flue-cured auction in Rural Hall, N.C., on October 20. Photo by Chris Bickers.

A hard freeze on November 2 over much of Kentucky would have ended the burley crop. But Bob Pearce Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist, says he thinks the last of Kentucky’s burley fields had been harvested several weeks before the freeze. “A lot is curing right now and it seems to be curing well. “The quality of this season’s burley is better than in a while. His rough estimate of production is 70 million pounds, down maybe 10 percent from 2019.

Some light frost events have taken place in North Carolina, but as in Kentucky, substantially all the tobacco (except burley) had been harvested. “We had a good crop even though the first two thirds of the season were very difficult,” says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “For instance, the Old Belt crop rebounded well in the summer, and it turned out nice.”

Harvest of flue-cured is complete in Virginia, says David Reed, Virginia Extension tobacco specialist, and most of it has been marketed. Some of the best tobacco was that planted after the heavy spring rains. Tobacco planted in the wet weather frequently suffered from root damage, making it difficult to take in the fertilizer that was t here or to weather the stress of dry weather later.

It will be a short crop, Reed adds, perhaps eight to 10 percent below expectations. The quality of the upperstalk was good, but the lower leaves suffered more and were difficult to sell at a reasonable price. Virginia dark fire-cured also experienced good quality but reduced yield, says Reed. “The growers are taking down and stripping right now,” he says.

The last tobacco in the field this year may well be the burley of western North Carolina. According to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, as of November 1, 15 percent of WNC burley remained to be harvested.

Burley deliveries should begin any minute if they haven’t already. Auctions will begin November 24, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, in Danville and Lexington. For more information, call Jerry Rankin, Farmers Tobacco Warehouse, Danville, Ky. (PH 859 319 1400), or Darby Montgomery at Big Burley Warehouse, Lexington, Ky. (PH 859 233 9944).

Auctions are winding down. There will be two more sales in eastern North Carolina, and then the season ends. The average price declined a little at the first sale of November because some low quality leaf that had been held back was brought to sale. But at the last two sales in October, the price had strengthened, perhaps because the industry finally realized how short this crop was.

This was a very short crop, says Tommy Faulkner, auction manager at American Tobacco Exchange in Wilson, N.C. “It may be the shortest crop we have ever had in eastern N.C. First the acreage was small, then there was so much adverse weather, so the yield was low.” Surprisingly, the quality was good, and once leaf grades began to arrive, the buyers supported the market. “We sold leaf grades for about $1.20 to $1.75.”

Production fell short in the Piedmont, too. “I don’t think any of the growers who sell here [Rural Hall] produced a yield of as much as 2,000 pounds per acre,” said Dennis White, owner of the Old Belt Tobacco warehouse near Winston-Salem. “We got too much rain in the spring, then it turned dry, then it started raining again in the fall.” But it sold well, particularly from October 20 on. “All grades sold well, even the scrap and pickings. Everybody was well satisfied.”Sales in Rural Hall will continue through the first three week s of November with perhaps one more Thanksgiving week.

A point to remember for 2021: "There is still a shortage of good quality tobacco," says White.

Casualties of the pandemic:

--North Carolina Tobacco Day has been cancelled due to COVID concerns. It was originally scheduled to take place December 3 in Smithfield. County Extension meetings will still be conducted over the winter, but online. Check with your county agent for details.

--GAP farmer training will not be connected with county tobacco meetings, at least not in North Carolina. The organization is currently planning a “hybrid” approach to farmer training. Most or perhaps all of it will be accomplished online. TFN will provide details in a future issue.

--But organizers of the Southern Farm Show say they will present the show on February 3 through 5, as scheduled.


Brazil--Marketing of the last crop in Brazil was continuing in early October as this year’s crop was beginning to come up for sale. “The 2019/20 tobacco harvest is still being marketed under pressure from the Brazilian Tobacco Growers Association (AFUBRA), which is pushing for the industry to buy the entire contracted volume,” said a release from Agrolink. “Meanwhile, growers who plant Virginia winter varieties ha[d] started harvesting the 2020/21 crop by the beginning of October.” In the big flue-cured state of Rio Grande do Sul, the first leaves were already drying. Growers hoped to complete the harvest before December to avoid heat damage.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020



Three words that sum up 2020: Too much rain. “We put down more nitrogen in leaching adjustments than in any of my 44 years of farming,” says Randy Edwards (inset), owner of Lake Wendell Farming Company in Wendell, N.C. “We had way too much rain, from 10 inches to as much as 18 inches above normal on most of our fields. The adjustment helped but we have a light crop.” Thanks to the low weight, harvest went fast, and Edwards and his family finished the last week of September. The target date at the beginning of the season had been October 15. Above: Workers prepare flue-cured leaf for marketing at Edwards' farm. File photos by Chris Bickers.


With all the moisture, flue-cured growers in certain areas may have dodged a bullet. “Earlier in the year, with so much rain and farmers trying to apply nitrogen to adjust for leaching, there seemed a danger that the crop might stop growing and we might end up with a very late crop and get an early frost particularly because of the hot/dry July we experienced,” says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. “But the Eastern Belt crop has been largely been removed from the field, and a final push is going on in the Old Belt. No frost is predicted in the near future so I think everything will be harvested in time.”

Disappointing crop in South Carolina: Harvest ended about three weeks ago, Matthew Inman, S.C. Extension specialist, and it wasn’t anywhere near a bumper crop. “It is going to be light all across the state. “Some good tobacco has been sold, but I am hearing about some that is not so good. It was another tough year.” There were a number of weather problems but perhaps the worst was heavy rains in middle May. “We had a lot of rain in the Pee Dee (in the northeast)—14 or more inches in general and in some places up to 20 inches.”

The soil never dried out after that. “As a result, the crop didn’t have a root system. Our farmers tried to make leaching adjustments, but the results varied. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.” Due to the poor root system, plant uptake of that fertilizer was delayed. “Late in the season, we had a lot of green tops because the plants finally started taking some of the fertilizer from the leaching adjustments.” Yield will probably fall to 1,500 to 1,800 pounds per acre, says Inman. “Some farmers have told me this was their worst yield ever.” Quality will be below average across the board, he says.

Flue-cured in Virginia is 94 percent harvested. Harvest in Georgia and Florida has been complete for several weeks.


The Kentucky burley crop is 98 percent cut and 28 percent stripped, says USDA, with increased reports of houseburn. The small North Carolina burley crop, estimated at about a half million pounds, is 65 percent harvested.

In middle Tennessee, cold weather is predicted for the weekend, possibly including frost, says Keith Allen, Extension director in Macon County near Nashville. “But we are nearly 100 percent harvested now, so we shouldn’t have much damage.” The county, which grew 1,000 to 1,200 acres of burley this year and 300 to 400 acres of dark air-cured and Connecticut broadleaf, had a good crop in the field late in the season. “But then we had five to eight inches of rain in a short period of time at the end of September, and it really hammered the tobacco,” Allen says. “Now, it is just fair.”


Harvest of Kentucky-Tennessee dark types is nearly doneAll of the dark air-cured tobacco and 95 percent of the fire-cured had been harvested by October 10, says Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist stationed in Princeton, Ky. “We have just a few acres left,” he says. “We should be finished by October 15.”

How is broadleaf being cured in the Black Patch? Few if any barns have been built to cure the new cigar types from Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Instead, burley and dark air-cured barns are being used, says Bailey. “Even some fire-cured barns have been used. They are not ideal for air curing but can be made useable with a drier curing season and the ability to use heat under the tobacco.” For Kentucky and Tennessee as a whole, Bailey projects six million pounds of production for the Connecticut type and 1.8 million pounds for the Pennsylvania type. He pegged production at 41 million pounds for dark fire-cured and 16 million pounds for dark air-cured.

Connecticut and Pennsylvania are being grown in several other Southern tobacco states, including North Carolina. “But not much,” says Vann. “I would be surprised if there were more than 50 acres in this state this year.” There is some question as to how well cigar wrapper tobacco would ever fit into a flue-cured scheme. Dark tobacco growers with their history of producing wrappers will have the best chance at success with these types.

This goes back a few years but at one time dark air-cured production was promoted in Eastern N.C. It was not a good fit, and Vann doesn’t know if any farmers are growing it now. But there remain a small number of growers—mostly north and east of Raleigh—who still grow burley on flue-cured farms, as was popular for a while after the buyout.

How much production USDA projects as of October 1 (by type and percentage change from 2019)--
  • Flue-cured: 234.9 million pounds, down 20.9 percent. 
  • Burley: 79.6 million pounds, down 14.1 percent. 
  • Fire-cured: 41.5 million pounds, down 9.2 percent. 
  • Dark air cured: 24.6 million pounds, up 1.2 percent. 
  • Southern Maryland: 960,000 pounds, down 58 percent. 
  • Pennsylvania seedleaf: 5.75 million pounds, up four percent. 
  1. United States: 387.5 million pounds, down 17 percent.
--Source: USDA October Crop Production Report.

Monday, September 28, 2020


A farmer strips leaves from his burley in the Bluegrass of 
northern Kentucky. File photo by Christopher Bickers.

Heat-not-burn products could be a better alternative tobacco product than e-cigarettes, at least as far as American farmers are concerned. Blake Brown, N.C. Extension economist, said at the recent N.C. State virtual field day that the promising PMI product IQOS has received FDA's "modified risk" status, which increases the chance that it might achieve full marketing soon. "Heating rather than burning significantly reduces the production of harmful and potentially chemicals," Brown said. "Also, switching completely from conventional cigarettes to the IQOS system significantly reduces your body's exposure to harmful chemicals." The best thing about HNB products for U.S. farmers is that they use some tobacco, maybe a third as much as conventional cigarettes. That is a lot better than e-cigarettes which use no U.S. tobacco. Most of the nicotine in e-products is believed to come from India and China. "A scenario with HNB dominating alternative nicotine delivery is better than vaping," Brown said. But it will still accelerate erosion of sales of combustibles.

Another report from the Bluegrass indicates that an excellent burley crop is in the offing. Grower Darrell Varner of Versailles, Kentucky, says, "All the burley around here is pretty good. We have had timely rain, and from 65 to 70 percent has been harvested." Varner is president of the Council for Burley Tobacco, which will hold its annual meeting tomorrow at Varner's farms in Versailles. The meeting will begin at 10 a.m. EDT with a welcome. Advance registration is required to make sure COVID guidelines are met. Directions will be sent to registrants. To register, go to: www.council for burley and click on "2020 Annual Meeting Registration".

From USDA's September 20 Crop Progress & Condition Report:
  • Kentucky: Growers experienced below normal temperatures and much below rainfall over the past week. Farmers made substantial progress in the fields this week thanks to mild temperatures and dry conditions. As better weather presents itself, harvesting will move along steadily. Housed tobacco condition continues to improve aided by the cool, dry weather.
  • Tennessee: Cooler, drier weather in Middle Tennessee aided farmers in harvesting tobacco. In East Tennessee, drier weather toward the end of the week allowed harvest to continue.
  • North Carolina: Flue-cured growers in the Coastal Plain reported lower weights and yields than last season, say Extension personnel in Franklin, Halifax, and Nash counties. In Robeson County, farther south in the Coastal Plain, flue-cured harvest was looking good. Harvest will end soon.
  • South Carolina & Georgia: What was the damage from Hurricane Sally? The storm delivered several inches of rain on northeast South Carolina on September 17, but no crop damage from winds was reported. Ponding in fields across the Pee Dee region again this season, but very little crop damage was reported beyond preexisting damage. In the southeast and middle portions of Georgia, Hurricane Sally brought ample rainfall, but most fields were spared strong winds. Dry soil quickly soaked up much of the moisture.

Harvest progress through September 20: Flue-cured--VA--72 percent; NC--83 percent; SC--97 percent; GA--96 percent; FL--Complete. Burley--KY--80 percent; TN--83 percent; NC--34 percent.


Brazil: How much tobacco is Brazil growing? Universal Leaf estimated earlier this year that Brazilian production of the recently marketed flue-cured crop at 1.21billion pounds, roughly the same as in the past five years. For the next flue- cured crop, ULTC projects 1.25 billion pounds. The same report estimated U. S. production for the crop ending now as 240 million pounds, about 15 percent down from the previous season, and 2021 production of 277 million pounds, up 15 percent from this season. For burley, Universal estimates Brazilian production at 155 million pounds, down 18 percent from the previous crop, with 12 percent less projected for 2021. The report estimated U.S. burley production for this season at 81 percent million pounds, up two percent.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020



Cured burley in barn in Kentucky awaiting stripping. File photo.
The three traditional tobacco types that are grown in middle Tennessee--dark fire-cured, dark air-cured and burley--are all reportedly doing well. Rob Ellis, director of the Highland Rim AgResearch Center at Springfield, Tn., said rainfall has been erratic most of this season. "But overall we have a good dark tobacco crop." The weather has been good for harvest this season, and at the research center, harvest is more than halfway complete.
USDA estimated that by the 14th, 65 percent of Tennessee's tobacco had been harvested and 100 percent topped.

Burley plantings are way down in Robertson County, where the center is located, says Ellis. But there has been considerable interest in Connecticut broadleaf. "We have four acres of Connecticut broadleaf here at the center," says Ellis. "In the field, it has looked very similar to the dark types." Market preparation will be a challenge, since Ellis has never done it before.
But dark tobacco growers may have an advantage in producing broadleaf because it hasn't been too long ago when they followed an intense market preparation program as is followed for broadleaf. "There are farmers and workers who remember how it is done," says Ellis.
Reports from other states:

Kentucky--Nearly all Kentucky's tobacco has been topped (98 percent) with well over half (69 percent) of it cut. Housed tobacco is reportedly in mostly good condition and markedly better than the week ending September 7, due to largely dry conditions. But in North Carolina, only 29 percent of the burley had been harvested.

North Carolina--Flue-cured was 74 percent harvested. Tobacco harvest was reportedly progressing well in Craven County and, despite the rain, leaves are holding well without excessive decay. In Virginia, 65 percent of the flue-cured crop was harvested. In South Carolina, harvest and curing drew to a close in most areas while a few producers were still finishing up their harvesting activities. The percentage harvested was set at 95 percent. In Georgia, 92 percent was reported harvested. In Florida harvest is complete.

Lugs have made up most of the offerings on flue-cured auction floors. "We have had a lot of lower-stalk tobacco," says Kenneth Kelly, owner of Horizon warehouse in Wilson, N.C. "Better quality lugs bought from $1 a pound up--from here on, the quality and thickness will determine the price." He isn't expecting cutters and leaf for several more days. Flue-cured sales resume today.
Two warehouses in Kentucky will be auctioning burley this season: Farmers in Danville, Ky., and Big Burley in Lexington, Ky. If you are interested in selling at either, call:
  • Darby Montgomery at Big Burley Warehouse, Lexington, Ky., (PH 859 233 9944) or
  • Jerry Rankin Farmers Tobacco Warehouse, 4540 Perryville Rd., Danville, Ky., (PH 859 319 1400).
Opening sales dates will be announced later. Note: Old Belt Tobacco Sales in Rural Hall, N.C., will auction burley tobacco if it is offered at its warehouse north of Winston-Salem, N.C. If you are interested, call Dennis White at (336 416 6262).

Bluegrass burley looks very good, both Rankin and Montgomery say. "My personal crop is the best I have had in 15 years," says Rankin. "We might get a yield of 2,700 to 2,800 pounds. That would be the best on this farm since the Eighties." But Montgomery says if the rainfall doesn't hold back, harvesting could be delayed. "We still have a lot out there that hasn't been cut yet." It's possible that labor to cut the crop could become a big problem.

The prospects for this crop continue to fall. The September Crop Production Report from USDA projected that volume of all types in the U.S. this year will reach 368 million pounds,, down 21.3 percent from last season and 1.1 percent from the August projection. Both flue-cured and burley are still projected down more that 20 percent since last season, as is fire-cured. Dark air-cured and Pennsylvania seedleaf are roughly the same. Note: The projection for the miniscule Maryland type crop increased noticeably since August, but it is still expected to be down 40 percent.
FLUE-CURED: North Carolina--173.4 million pounds, down 25.8 percent. Virginia--26.4 million pounds, down 7.3 percent. Georgia--16.56 million pounds, down 12.3 per-cent. South Carolina--nine million pounds, 42.9 percent. Total--225.36 million pounds, down 24.1 percent.
BURLEY: Kentucky--61.2 million pounds, down 21.4 percent. Pennsylvania--5 million pounds, down 22.4 percent. Tennessee--4.35 million pounds, down 32 percent. Virginia--680,000 pounds, down 48.8 percent. North Carolina--495,000 pounds, down 29.2 percent. Total--71.765 million pounds, down 24.1 percent.
FIRE-CURED: 40.49 million pounds, down 11.5 percent.
DARK AIR-CURED: 23.97 million pounds, less than one percent change.
PENNSYLVANIA SEEDLEAF: 5.52 million pounds, less than one percent change.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND: 960,000 pounds, down 41.7 percent.
ALL UNITED STATES: 368 million pounds, down 21.3 percent.