Buyers place their bids on the last few bales of flue-cured on sale at the last auction at the Old Belt Tobacco Sales warehouse in Rural Hall, N.C., in October. File photo by Christopher Bickers.
Flue-cured auctions ended this past week. The market definitely slid. “The crop just fell off at the end of the season,” says Dennis White, owner of the Old Belt Tobacco Sales auction in Rural Hall near Winston-Salem. “It had gone through a lot of stress, and had been in the field a long time, six and a half to seven months and it just aged out.” But until that time it had been a good crop and a good market. Average at the Old Belt warehouse for the season was $1.64 pound, White says. The practical top was $1.85 for second grades, $2 on first grades. A lot sold for $1.45 to $1.75. Farmers were happy with the prices over the full season. “I had no complaint from any of my farmers about the price,” says White.
Burley close to extinction in still another moun-tain county. Just north of Asheville, Madi-son County, N.C., once had over 2,000 growers and led the state in burley production. It had a powerful effect on the economy. “The impact of this crop as an economic engine for Madison County was so strong I could write books [about it],” says Ross Young, county Extension director. “Now, there are only three burley growers in the county.” It might be a small consolation for those three, but Young says this was a decent crop, although it will be a few weeks before he has an accurate estimate of yield and production.
The bitter lesson of the Eastern Belt this season: It's hard to make a good crop when you get 25 to 30 inches of rain in one month, in this case June. “Some of our leaf was hurt very badly by all that precipitation,” says Tommy Faulkner, auction manager at the American Tobacco Exchange in Wilson, N.C. At Faulkner’s warehouse, Leaf grades brought steady prices between $1.75 and $1.85 while lugs and cutters attracted bid of $1.45 to $1.55. Low quality leaf brought $.50 to $1. Sales remained strong till close to the end of the season.
The first burley auction of 2021 took place last Tuesday. “We had a lot of very good tobacco,” says Jerry Rankin, owner of Farmers Warehouse. His sales have traditionally been held in Danville, Ky., but this year have been moved to the former JTI warehouse near Springfield, Ky. As best TFN can tell, the Farmers Warehouse is the only warehouse auctioning burley this season.
Delivery in the Bluegrass has been slowed by very dry conditions. “We have had wind almost every day,” says Rankin. “That has prevented farmers from stripping their crops.” The leaf is so dry it crumbles, says Rankin. “On our farm, we have sprayed water in the barn and will wrap it in plastic when it gets wet.”
Could Connecticut broadleaf replace burley in the mountains? “It could be a perfect crop for farmers who historically grew burley tobacco,” said Chad Moody, at the Mountain Research Station in Waynesville, N.C. “Due to our farms being smaller here in the western part of North Carolina, farmers are able to pay attention to the details, which is what it takes to grow good wrapper tobacco.”
Research on cigar wrapper production by N.C. State University has been conducted at the Mountain and the Upper Mountain research stations and the Oxford Tobacco Research Station and the Central Crops Research Station in Clayton. A webinar on what the researchers have learned will be held on December 17. For more information on this and other webinars offered by the N.C. Extension, see: https://tobacco.ces. ncsu.edu/2021/11/december-webinar-series/.
What to remember about crop insurance in 2021:
All burley tobacco growers must have a bona fide contract with a manufacturer to obtain crop insurance.
Dark air cured and flue cured tobacco producers have a two tier system.
Those who have a bona fide contract will pay a different amount than those who do not have a contract to sell their tobacco crop.
Contact your crop insurance agent to review your policy and make any needed changes and adjustments.
New ITGA administrator: Mercedes Vasquez has been appointed new CEO of the International Tobacco Growers Association, replacing Antonio Abrunhosa, who has held the position since 1998.
International report: Global cigarette sales declined by four percent in the past year, while illicit penetrations maintained their share of the market at 12 percent, said Shane MacGuill of Euromonitor International at the recent ITGA annual meeting. “The proportion of cigarettes in the total tobacco value sales mix continues to decline,” he said. “Alternatively, heated tobacco is getting established as the most important reduced-risk category.” Reasons for that include investment from companies and regulatory issues surrounding e-vapor.