Friday, July 10, 2020


One of the last: A grower wraps up burley transplanting on his farm near Ripley, Ohio.

Flue-cured production for all U.S. states is forecast at 231 million pounds, down 22 percent from 2019, according to USDA's July Crop Production report. Acreage at 120,500 acres is 19 percent below last year. Yield for the 2020 crop year is forecast at 1,919 pounds per acre, 71 pounds below last year. Once again, if these projections are realized, this will be the lowest flue-cured tobacco harvested acreage and production on record. Among the individual states:
  • NORTH CAROLINA: 174.8 million pounds, down 25 percent from 2019, on 92,000 acres, down 25,000 acres from 2019. Yield is projected at 1,900 pounds per acre, down slightly from 2019.    
  • VIRGINIA: 28 million pounds, down one percent from 2019, on 14,000 acres, down 1,000 acres from 2019. Yield is projected at 2,000 pounds per care, up 100 pounds per acre from 2019.
  • GEORGIA: 16.5 million pounds, down 12 percent from 2019, on 7,500 acres, 1,500 fewer acres than 2019. Yield is projected at 2,200 pounds per acre, slightly higher than 2019.
  • SOUTH CAROLINA: 11.9 million pounds, down 24 percent from 2019, on 7,000 acres, down 1,300 acres from 2019. Yield is projected at 1,700 pounds per acre, down 200 pounds per acre from 2019.
  • FLORIDA: USDA did not estimate production for the Sunshine State and has not for several years. But one reliable estimate of planting puts Florida acreage at 1,000.
First projections for other tobacco states will appear in future editions of USDA's Crop Production.
Suit against Lexington co-op settled: All parties involved a lawsuit seeking the dissolution of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association have reached an agreement on a partial settlement. The terms include the liquidation of the Co-op's assets and distribution of net proceeds equally among members (those active in any crop year from 2015 through 2019) after payment of administrative costs, and fees and expenses of the plaintiffs' attorneys. The first distribution should occur before the end of 2020. The dissolution of the Co-op will be managed by a six-member dissolution committee made up of Penny Greathouse, Mitch Haynes and Gregg Craddock, who are Cp-op members involved in the litigation, and Al Pedigo, Eddie Warren and Donald Mitchell, who are Co-op directors. $1.5 million of the Co-op's assets will be designated for the creation of a new agricultural-related non-profit entity whose mission will include:
  • Serving as liaison for tobacco growers with leaf dealers and tobacco purchasers;
  • Advocating for producers/growers and land-owners in production of tobacco;
  • Providing services and support for education and research beneficial to growers of all types of tobacco.
A hearing seeking preliminary approval has been set for July 29. Detailed notices will then be sent to past and present members, and a settlement website will be established. Watch for further details as they arise.
Who will represent growers in Kentucky until the new association is established? "We want burley growers to know they still have an organization they can reach out to as issues arise," said Darrell Varner, president of the Council for Burley Tobacco. "We encourage them to check out our website at  www. for up-to-date information on all burley issues."
Tobacco is fading away in East Tennessee: As far as Bennie Davis of Sur-goinsville, Tn., can tell, only one acre of burley has been planted this year in his home county of Hawkins. And that acre is being grown on his upper east Tennessee farm by his 17-year-old grandson as a school project. As recently as a year ago, there were three adult tobacco grow-ers in the county (see TFN November II 2020), but they have all given up on the crop. Reason? The price offered in recent years has been too low to allow a profit under the growing conditions of the Blue Ridge. "You can't afford to grow it at the current price if you have to hire any labor at all," says Davis. "You lose money."
On the bright side, Davis' grandson's one-acre patch is looking good now, even though it got off to a late start. "It should have been up already when he decided to plant it," Davis says. Fortunately, the weather was good after setting.
Kentucky burley setting was probably completed this week, says USDA. Steve Pratt, general manager of the Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association in Lexington, said, "From what I have seen, the crop looks good and has good potential." Transplanting was slowed by heavy rains early on. "But once it was in the field, the weather has been better. Farmers have been able to plant all the acres they wanted to."

Brazil--Nicotine levels high. Harvesting of the 2020 flue-cured Virginia crop has been completed, according to a report from Star Tobacco, and expected crop size is 550 million kilos. Production was negatively affected by drought, and nicotine levels appear to fall around five percent. To decrease that level in blends, buyers plan to use most Brazilian lugs and cutters in leaf grades. A short supply of filler grades for the export market can be expected.
Zimbabwe--As of July 1, Zimbabwe farmers had sold 116 million kilograms of tobacco, substantially more than at the same point in the 2019 sales, according to media reports. Prices were roughly 30 percent higher. Flue-cured Virginia production has been estimated at 225 million kilos in 2020 which is 13 percent lower than the previous year, according to a report from Star Tobacco. The irrigated crop is down in volume compared to recent years, but the dryland crop has exceeded the earlier forecast yields. As a result, the overall production level of commercially grown flue-cured tobacco should be slightly less than they were than in 2019.

Malawi--The growing season here was characterized by heavy rainfall, according to a report from Star Tobacco. Rain that extended from February and into March left crop stands slightly uneven, and the leaf is thinner than the previous year. Expected burley crop size is 120 million kilos, 15 percent lower than 2019

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


Nearing the end: A Kentucky farmer wraps up setting. 
Transplanting will probably be complete by the weekend, in Kentucky, if not sooner, says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. "Most of the crop has been in the ground for two weeks and looks good." Al Pedigo of Scottsville, Scottsville, Ky., hoped to finish transplanting on Saturday the 27th. "It's definitely been a late crop so far," he told TFN.
That was largely due to rains. And the dark types in western Kentucky and Tennessee were affected by the same weather. Andy Bailey, Extension dark tobacco specialist, thinks about 98 percent of the dark tobacco has been set out and the rest will be by the weekend. Normally it would be complete by now. "This could prove to be a problem for dark tobacco growers who are trying to double crop their barns," he says.
Mountain burley lags: In Virginia, planting of burley was completed last week. In Tennessee, all but five percent of the crop was reportedly set. But in North Carolina, 18 percent of the state's burley crop was yet to be transplanted. In the N.C. Mountains, rainfall near average and temperatures slightly lower with cloudy conditions for most of the period in Jackson and Swain counties.
Coastal Plain heats up: In North Carolina, farmers in the east went from wet and cool weather to hot and dry weather very quickly. "Our crops could use a little shower of rain in the evenings at this time," said a USDA source covering Franklin, Halifax and Nash counties. Soils have reportedly dried out in Johnston County south of Raleigh due to very little rainfall and windy and hot conditions. Near the ocean, in Craven County, the lack of rainfall has allowed field work, but crops are still behind normal growth stages. Farmers have been forced to make difficult decisions regarding management priorities--adjust for nutrient loss, manage weeds or remedially treat for tobacco budworm? In South Carolina, crops benefited from frequent rainfall last week. However, some areas experienced ponding in fields. Topping was going on full speed, with 31 percent of the crop topped
Old Belt makes adjustments: North of Raleigh, flue-cured growers in Granville County are trying to apply nitrogen without causing the leaf to stay green into the fall, another USDA source says. Growing conditions have been good, but some foliar diseases are starting to show up. In Virginia, fieldwork had been slowed by wet conditions two weeks ago, with some fields flooded. But the weather dried and allowed growers to get in the fields. To "leaching adjust" or "not to leaching adjust" was the big question. Transplanting was complete for flue-cured and nearly complete for fire-cured.

Deep South: Harvest will get going in earnest in Georgia and Florida next week, says J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. Some may have taken place already. Some irrigation is going on, especially in Florida. "It has been very hot," Moore says. "The quality looks good, but the leaf is thin." Moore estimates that a little over 8,000 acres of flue-cured have been planted in Georgia and perhaps 1,000 acres in Florida.

Still another type of tobacco in the Black Patch? The same dealers who contracted with farmers to grow Connecticut broadleaf last year are now contracting for limited plantings of the Pennsylvania Type 41 tobacco in the dark tobacco areas of western Kentucky and Tennessee. It is primarily a cigar wrapper type like the Connecticut type but has some other uses. Type 41 may have a little higher yield potential than Connecticut, says Bailey. He believes there are a few hundred acres of Type 41 growing in the Black Patch now, along with a few thousand acres of Connecticut.
Argentina's tobacco market was disrupted by the country's coronavirus lockdown. When it began in March, roughly a third of the flue-cured and virtually all of the burley in the country remained to be delivered. "Purchases of burley were just beginning when COVID-19 broke out," said José J. Aranda of the Cámara del Tabaco of Salta. "[The delays] and the slower pace of purchases has had a greater impact on the quality of burley leaves than flue-cured." As a result of the lockdown, points of sale experienced a shortage of cigarettes. "This, in turn, means cigarette sales are down." But the lockdown ended in early June and there is hope that its effects on growers will not be pronounced.
Names In The News: Mark Stewart has been named the new President of Drexel Chemical Company, replacing Ben Johnson, who is retiring.

THIS JUST IN: USDA released its first estimate of 2020 tobacco plantings yesterday. Acreage was estimated at 149,300 acres, two percent below last year. Following are USDA's planting projections divided by types and by state for flue-cured and burley, with percentage change from 2019:

  • North Carolina--92,000 acres, down 21 percent,
  • Virginia--14,000 acres, down six percent,
  • Georgia--7,500 acres, down 16.7 percent,
  • South Carolina--7,000 acres, down 15 percent,
  • United States -120,500 acres, down 19 percent 
  • Kentucky--36,000 acres, down 12 percent,
  • Pennsylvania--2,100 acres, down 16 percent,
  • Tennessee--4,700 acres, up 17 percent,
  • Virginia--400 acres, down 42 percent, and
  • North Carolina--300 acres, down 25 percent,
  • United States--43,500 acres, down 10 percent.
SOUTHERN MARYLAND (PENNSYLVANIA)--400 acres, down 60 percent.
FIRE-CURED--13,450 acres, down 17 percent.
DARK AIR-CURED--9,300 acres, down six percent.
PENNSYLVANIA SEEDLEAF--2,300 acres, up six percent.