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.

Thursday, September 10, 2020



A harvest crew in action between Wilson 
and Raleigh, N.C. Photo by Chris Bickers.

Best crop in Georgia and Florida in many years: Buyers have been pleased with the quality of the leaf in the Deep South, said J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist. Weather was an important factor. Diseases haven't been a significant problem and the crop wasn't damaged by too much rainfall as it has in several recent years. Harvest in Florida appears complete while in Georgia, 88 percent had been gathered by the end of last week.
A report from the auctions: Prices on lugs were up some from last year at the first two auctions at American Tobacco Exchange in Wilson, N.C., Auction Manager Tommy Faulkner told Tobacco Farmer Newsletter before this week's sales. Lugs have made up nearly all the offerings so far. "The quality so far is good, but the crop is light. It definitely is not as heavy as normal to this point." The yield may improve with weather, he said. "But I don't see this ending up a big crop." For information about selling at American Tobacco Exchange, call Faulkner at 910 585 2708.)

Another warehouse begins sales today. Old Belt Tobacco Sales (336 416 6262) in Rural Hall, N.C., will hold its first sale of the season. Horizon Ltd. (252 292 8822) in Wilson and Coastal Piedmont Auction, Kenly, N.C. (919 284 0504) continue their sales.

Hopes dashed for sales to China in 2020: "We really had high hopes that China would be back going into this season, that they would buy some of the inventories destined for them in 2018," said Blake Brown, N.C. Extension economist. "Even if that didn't affect our 2020 contract, it might affect 2021." But there can be no more hope that this will happen this season. U.S. leaf sales to China (which are near-ly all flue-cured) had reached 60 million pounds in 2018. So the effect on U.S. growers was considerable when China stopped importing U.S. tobacco in 2018, Brown said. He believes they have largely met their needs from Brazil and to some extent from Zimbabwe. 

Now, the outlook is cloudy. "I honestly don't know what to expect for the future," said Brown. "If China comes back on our market for 2021, that could help us in either 2021 0r 2022. It might not reverse the trend we are seeing in U.S. tobacco, but it certainly would be a big help."
Zimbabwe production down, price up: The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board of Zimbabwe said farmers had delivered 179.25 million kilograms by the time auctions ended on September 1 compared to 233.6 million kilos during the same period last year. Note that much Zimbabwean flue-cured is sold on direct contract with manufacturers and dealers. Contract deliveries were still going on in early Septembers. Although this year's crop was smaller, stronger prices averaging around $2.50 per kilo helped farmers earn $460.7 million at auction, more than the $447 million they got in the same period last year.

Malawi down too. Sales in Malawi ended at the beginning of September, and sales were calculated at $173.5 million, 27 percent less than the $237 million garnered from last year's crop, according to the Malawi Tobacco Commission: 
  • A total of 112.89 milli-on kgs of tobacco were sold, down from 165.67 million kgs last year. 
  • Prices per kg were higher: $1.54 com-pared to $1.43 last year.
  • Excessive rains received immediately after the second round of crop estimates contributed to the decline in production.
The Tobacco Commission's Chief Executive Officer Kaisi Sadala told Daily Times news-paper of Blantyre, "Initially we had anti-cipated producing around 154 million kgs of tobacco this season. But we ended up producing just around 112 million."