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June, 2007


Tropical Storm Barry wets a dry situation

North Carolina — It was a bad spring in much of the US Tobacco Belt, starting with an unusually late freeze on Easter morning, followed by cold temperatures and in some areas wind damage.

In the midst of all this, a record-setting spring drought set in, so that young plants couldn’t possibly grow and instead stood fast in a dormant state.

Hand wringing was widespread on farms until Tropical Storm Barry and some smaller storms that it generated gave thirsty tobacco fields a very good drink. It didn’t provide all the water the crop will need but it did provide enough to carry it to the next level.

“This should take the crop to topping and make things look lots better,” said reported J. Michael Moore, Georgia Extension tobacco specialist.

“Given these conditions, I think we have as good a crop in the field as we could hope for,” said Loren Fisher, North Carolina Extension tobacco specialist, as June began. “Where it has rained, the tobacco looks very good.”

The dry weather will not be a big concern if it eventually starts raining normally, he said.

The NC crop went through wind damage early and some cold damage. The Easter Freeze struck in NC as well, but the impact was minimal since very little tobacco was actually in the field at the time.

“At most, 500 acres were damaged by the freeze,” said Fisher. “I am not sure there was even that much.”

There was nevertheless a shortage of plants. That was partly because of demand from South Carolina and Georgia, where the Easter freeze caused more plant damage. But Fisher thinks enough plants were available for all the acres that farmers wanted to plant.

Fisher projects that flue-cured acreage in NC will be up a small amount. Burley acreage will be about the same as last year in both the traditional and new areas, he said.

A near-washout for burley
Buenos Aires — The yield-robbing effects of rain that fell almost the whole growing season in Misiones and nearly as long in Tucuman become more apparent as the last of the burley crop was delivered in early May.

The leaf dealer Universal Leaf Tobacco reduced its estimate by a total of 1.9 mn kgs below the previous month’s estimate to 40 mn kgs. The reduction was divided roughly equally between Misiones and Tucuman, the two significant burley provinces which lie in the northeast and northwest of the country respectively. If ULTC’s estimate proves accurate, burley volume in Argentina will be down 23% from 2006 and 26% from the original 2007 target of 54 mn kgs.

The flue-cured crop, produced mostly in the two northwestern most provinces of Jujuy and Salta, fared better than burley even though it was subjected to excessive rain also. Marketing of the crop was complete by early May after harvest ended April 19. Yields were a bit better than expected for the last deliveries, and ULTC increased its final crop size estimate by 1.8 mn kgs over the previous month, to 85 mn kgs. If that estimate proves accurate, it will represent a 5% increase over 2006 but it will still be 7.4% less than the original target of 91.8 mn kgs.

Farmers had started soil and seedbed preparation in May for the 2008 flue-cured crop, with transplanting likely to begin in August. - (Bickers)

Black Sea
Oriental took a tumble in 2006
Sofia —Bulgaria’s production of Oriental leaf fell to 17 mn kgs in 2006 from 36 mn kgs in 2005.

Greece’s production also fell sharply, from 54 mn kgs in 2005 to 23 mn kgs in 2006, while Macedonia’s production held steady at 24 mn kgs.

Turkey’s Oriental production fell from 131 mn kgs to 93 mn kgs.

Thailand, with six mn kgs, was the only other significant producer among the exporting countries.

The world’s total production of Oriental fell from 355 mn kgs in 2005 to 271 mn kgs in 2006, a 24% decline.

Las Tunas Province increases tobacco yields
Las Tunas — A notable increase of yields in the harvest of the tobacco leaf will make it possible for Las Tunas province to reach a similar level of production as last year.

Despite the fact that so far the collection has fallen short by 470 hectares as compared to last year’s harvest. By the end of the campaign, it will be possible to turn out 1,150 tons of dry tobacco, thus equaling the output in 2006. According to engineer Luis Enrique Santiago, assistant director of the tobacco company in Las Tunas, the yield per hectare is higher this year. Among some of the factors that have allowed for that advance are the introduction of more productive varieties and the experience accumulated over the past few years by local tobacco farmers.

A good burley crop
Guatemala City — Overall crop quality was reportedly good for the tobacco crop produced this year in Guatemala. The last of the crop in the field had been harvested by May 15, and purchasing was expected to be complete by the end of May.

The crop size estimate has been reduced by 0.2 mn kgs down to 10 mn kgs, down 9% from 2006 and down 10.7% from the original target.

Nearly all tobacco produced in Guatemala is burley. - (Bickers)

Volume way down in 2007
Tepic — A substantial shortfall in Mexican burley production appeared likely in May. With harvest of the dry-season crop almost complete by mid May, and 55% of it delivered, Universal Leaf Tobacco Company’s crop size estimate (for both rainy and dry season plantings) was 10 mn kgs. That was 23% below 2006 volume and roughly a sixth below ULTC’s original estimate for 2007.

Cured leaf was reportedly of good to average quality, ULTC reported, although curing conditions in May were somewhat difficult. - (Bickers)

United States
Dark plantings lag behind burley
Frankfort — Transplanting of the dark tobacco of central Tennessee and western Kentucky was about 65% completed by June 1, said Andy Bailey, Kentucky Extension tobacco specialist.

Burley plantings in the same area, which covers 30 counties, were farther along. “At least 80% of the burley crop has been set out, if not more,” Bailey said.

Like most of the Southeast, this area—sometimes called the “Black Patch”— suffered from intense cold on Easter weekend.

“On April 7, it was 19 degrees in Princeton, Kentucky, and we got some damage on outdoor float beds that weren’t adequately heated,” said Bailey. “But I would say we lost only 1% of our plants, and that didn’t lead to a shortage.”

The spring of 2007 was extremely dry. “Some of our tobacco sat in the field for three weeks without rain,” said Bailey. “But the crop looks pretty good. We have routine problems with our stands, many of which would be solved by a good rain.”

Dark plantings will be up some in Kentucky and Tennessee. “I would estimate that we will have maybe 1,000 to 1,500 additional acres. That would be up about 7% to 8% to perhaps 18,000 total acres,” said Bailey.

The increase is coming primarily from existing growers. “We have a few ‘new’ young growers, but these are men from dark-growing families,” Bailey said. “On the other hand, the only ones getting out of dark are those who retire.”

Bailey hasn’t encountered any traditional burley growers who have gotten into dark tobacco. “But a lot are interested in growing dark. I have had calls [with questions about dark production] from as far away as east Tennessee. But as of now, the buying companies haven’t shown interest in contracting dark in new areas.”

Volume drops slightly
Lusaka — Through May 15, about 2.3 mn kgs of flue-cured had been sold on the TAZ floors at an average price of US$2.08 per kg.

About 22 mn kgs of flue-cured are expected to be produced in Zambia this season, down a mn kgs from 2006. But 22 mn kgs will still be more than three times as much as was grown in 2003, when Zambia first began providing the world market with some of the production lost in Zimbabwe.

Offerings this season consist of good quality, standard styles, said Universal Leaf Tobacco. According to an earlier report, the irrigated crop is lemon to orange in color and generally clean. The quality of the dry land crop is reportedly good also. The overall crop is thin to medium bodied, with some over-ripe styles.

Zambia also produces burley tobacco. This year’s burley crop is substantially down from 2006’s, 10 mn kgs compared to 17 mn kgs last season, said ULTC. - (Bickers)

Tobacco International - June, 2007

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