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.