Burley transplanting in the Bluegrass.
Prospective Plantings, the USDA's first survey of tobacco farmers for the year, was issued August 30. The results were a bit of a surprise since modest increases had been predicted by many individuals in the industry. They did not materialize except for the dark types. But USDA surveys tend to be a bit nebulous, especially in the early season, so we will watch to see if someone comes up with a higher estimate.
For now, USDA's projection is the only one available. Following is projected acreage by type: Flue-cured acreage for the coming crop 127,500, unchanged from last year, Burley acreage at 40,850 acres, six percent less than 2020, and Fire-cured and dark air-cured down five and two percent respectively. Pennsylvania seedleaf was down 22 percent, while Southern Maryland tobacco was up 50 percent. Both these types are grown primarily in Pennsylvania. Following are the projections of intended area divided by states.
FLUE-CURED North Carolina: 102,000 acres, no change. Virginia: 12,000 acres, no change. Georgia: 7,000 acres, down 11 percent. South Carolina: 6,500 acres, up eight percent. All Flue-cured: 127,500 acres, no change.
BURLEY Kentucky: 36,000 acres, down three percent. Tennessee: 2,800 acres, no change. Pennsylvania: 1,400 acres, down 50 percent. North Carolina: 400 acres, down six percent. Virginia: 360 acres, down 10 percent. All Burley: 40,850 acres, down six percent.
OTHER Fire-cured: 15,050 acres, up five percent. Dark air-cured: 10,000 acres, up two percent. Pennsylvania Seedleaf: 1,800 acres, down 22 percent. Southern Maryland: 600 acres, up 50 percent.
In other tobacco news:
How to minimize weed seein flue-cured leaf: Start with PRE applications of Spartan and Command, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. Layby herbicide applications should be considered also: Applying something at layby is better than applying nothing. Layby herbicides at the end of the season increase weed control by eight to 50 percent depending on weed species, active ingredient, application rate, growing conditions. “Not once have we observed injury or stunting--when labels are followed and we’re not sloppy--nor have we failed to significantly improve weed control in end of season ratings,” says Vann. “Given the strain and cost of labor for hand weeding, adding a residual layby product such as Devrinol or Prowl to the mix might be worthwhile if you are not already using one, Vann says.
Where does American leaf stand on the world market? Hank Mozingo, president of Tobacco Associates, said at TA's annual meeting that conventional, combustible cigarette manufacturers are, without exception, the final purchaser of any significant quantities of U.S. flue-cured. "All cigarette manufacturer product decisions that are not regulatory requirements are dictated by the bottom line," he said. "Materials used to produce cigarettes must either reduce product unit cost or increase the number of units sold." Tobacco leaf, of all types, is the single most costly component of making a cigarette. "The price of U.S.-grown flue-cured is significantly higher than non-U.S. tobacco of the same variety. Just replacing a company's regular supply of flue-cured leaf with U.S. flue-cured would increase product cost by a minimum of about twenty-four cents per carton." Maintenance of product cost is paramount to any profitable cigarette manufacturer anywhere, Mozingo said.
The disappearance of tobacco farmers: Grower base has declined 90 percent since the tobacco buyout, says Will Snell, Kentucky Extension ag economist. And that probably will not be all. "Given tightening margins, the product market outlook, the increasing share of imported leaf, dilapidating infrastructure, and [obtaining] labor, further concentration will likely occur," Snell says. "While concerning for the tobacco growing sector as a whole, this expected outcome may create additional opportunities for the remaining growers."
REPORT FROM OVERSEAS
Brazil: Slavery in the south? A Brazilian leaf exporter has been charged with using slave labor on a tobacco farm, according to Reuter’s news service. Nine workers, some of them children, were removed recently from a farm in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil’s leading tobacco-producing state in the southern part of the country. Labor inspectors said the workers were living in poor conditions and were paid less than a third of minimum wage. They also lacked protective gear, leaving them exposed to high concentrations of nicotine. The company is Continental Tobaccos Alliance. There was no word as to what charge if any was given to the farm operator.
Cuba: Cigar leaf crop coming off well. Harvest in the leading tobacco-producing province of Pinar del Rio is well under way, according to an official of TABACUBA, a tobacco company. In a story carried by the Cuban News Agency, Virginio Morales Novo, agricultural specialist said that the gathering for this crop had surpassed nine million bushels, representing 85 percent of plantings, he said. Good yields were projected, especially in the areas with guaranteed irrigation, and curing was going well. The original target plantings in the province amounted to 15,800 hectares, but actual plantings peaked at more than 16,800 hectares. But some acres were lost to bad weather.
Welcome to the April I, 2021, issue of Tobacco Farmer Newsletter. If you haven't signed on to receive the newsletter regularly, please email your subscription request to TFN at chrisbickers@ gmail.com. Include phone number and your affiliation with tobacco, such as farmer, buyer, dealer or Extension agent. THE HISTORY OF BURLEY You can still get a copy of The Bluegrass and Beyond, Christopher Bickers' account of the historic basis of the modern burley industry. Send $20 plus $8 shipping and han-dling to No. 126, 7413 Six Forks Road, Raleigh, N.C. 27615. Make check to Chris-topher Bickers. Or call 919 789 4631 or email chris firstname.lastname@example.org PS: If you have already ordered a copy and you haven't received it, call the number above.