Burley harvest is picking up in Kentucky. Photo by Matt Barton, UK agricultural communications.
After weather delays caused by too much rain, harvest is finally beginning in earnest in Kentucky. “For a while there, including last week, it seemed it was rainy and cloudy every day,” says Bob Pearce, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist. “It affected those who were still topping, and it was definitely a detriment to harvesting. Even if you got your tobacco cut, you didn’t want it on the ground if a heavy downpour came along.” But now the forecasts are for good weather this week, so farmers are trying to catch up. “We are behind a little now,” he says.
How far along is harvest across the tobacco belt? The National Agricultural Statistic Services projects that for Burley as of August 22: In Kentucky, 89 percent was blooming, 75 percent had been topped, and with 23 percent of the crop cutting had been harvested. For Flue-cured, harvest in Virginia was 40 percent complete, in North Carolina, 41 percent complete, in South Carolina, 72 percent complete, and in Georgia, 71 percent complete.
The market season is well under way for flue-cured growers, and farmers generally seem happy with the price, says Matthew Vann, N.C. Extension tobacco specialist. Whether that will stand up will depend to a great extent on the size of this crop. On August 12, USDA projected that N.C. will produce 240 million pounds this year, up a whopping 30 percent from 2020. That strains all credulity, but Vann says it could happen, especially if China contracted a substantial amount.
Presented with some skepticism, the USDA August Crop Report figures showed production by type with percentage change from a year ago as follows:
North Carolina—240 million pounds, up 30 percent;
Virginia—30 million pounds, up 14;
Georgia--8.4 million pounds, down 4 percent; and
South Carolina—16 million pounds, up 90 percent.
All flue-cured—304.400 million pounds, up 28 percent.
Kentucky—74 million pounds, up 2 percent;
Pennsylvania--7.28 million pounds, up 4 percent;
Tennessee—4.5 million pounds, down 3 percent;
Virginia—612,000 pounds, down 10 percent;
North Carolina—493,000 pounds, down 6 percent.
All US burley—86.885 million pounds, up 2 percent.
Fire-cured--47.6 million pounds, up 26 percent.
Dark air-cured--24.44 million pounds, up 6 percent.
Pennsylvania Seedleaf –5.52 million pounds, no change.
Southern Maryland-- 880,000 pounds, down 4 percent.
And finally...USDA summarized the outlook for the US crop as a whole as follows: "The 2021 United States all tobacco production is forecast at 470 million pounds, up 21 percent from 2020. Area harvested, at 224,100 acres, is down slightly from previous forecast but up 13 percent from last year. Yield for the 2021 crop year is forecast at 2,096 pounds per acre, 130 pounds above last year."
Auctions begin. The Live Auction season starts Wednesday with sales in and around Wilson, N.C. The first sale will begin in the 10 o'clock hour ((Contact Kenneth Kelly at 252 292 8822 for details) at the Horizon Ltd. warehouse at 1723 Goldsboro St., Wilson. Once finished there, buyers will move to the American Tobacco Exchange warehouse at 2101 Miller Rd., also in Wilson. For information about that sale, call Tommy Faulkner at 910 585 2708. After lunch, buyers will drive down the road to the Coastal Piedmont Auction, 1291 Johnston Parkway, Kenly, N.C., to finish the day's marketing. (For information, contact Mickey Pegram at 270 932 1830, Roger Stanley at 919 628 9075 or the office at 919 284 0504)...The last of the sales for this year opens August 31 in Rural Hall, N.C., Old Belt Tobacco Sales, located at 1395 Old Belt Way., will be selling every Tuesday.
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