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November, 2007

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An opportunity for expansion

Johannesburg - The long-term interest of the Chinese in South African tobacco could allow farmers to increase the size of their crop by at least 50% without overproducing the demand, said an executive of the agribusiness group Afgri, in September.

“Indications for the new season are particularly positive and growers have been encouraged to increase production to fulfil expected orders both locally and from China,” said Louis Smit in an article in the Mail & Guardian newspaper of Johannesburg.

Farmers could increase production from 12 mn kgs to at least 20 mn kgs and still stay prudently within projected demand, he said.

The producer price of local tobacco was South African Rand 16 (US $2.31) in 2006 and has increased by 15% to R18.5 (US $2.67) per kg this year.

A restructuring of the South African tobacco industry will help the country take advantage of the market situation, Smit said. South Africa recently merged its six leaf processing facilities into one factory with processing capacity of 80 mn kgs, he said, claiming the consolidation saved farmers R20 mn last season. - (Bickers)

Cold transplanting season
Salta - Very low temperatures slowed seedling growth in many of the leaf-producing areas, and farmers were reluctant to begin planting for fear there might still be risk of frost.

Transplanting of the 2008 flue-cured crop was only 7% complete through September 19, while burley transplanting was only 5% complete on the same date. For both types this was behind the normal schedule.

Nevertheless, substantial increases in production are envisioned for both types in 2008, in part because higher yields are expected than in the rain-drenched 2007 season:

- The flue-cured projection has been set at 90 mn kgs, up from 85 mn kgs estimated for 2007, reflecting better expected yields and also increased planting intentions in the province of Salta.

- The burley crop size is expected to rise even more, from 37 mn kgs to 50 mn kgs, on the strength of the expectation of normal yields and also on increased planting intentions in the province of Tucuman, which lies just south of Salta. - (Bickers)

Crop off to fast start
Rio Grande Do Sul - Transplanting of the 2008 flue-cured crop moved quickly in September because of favorable conditions and was 60% complete by the middle of the month, said a report from Universal Leaf.

The Old Belt, Santa Catarina, South and Central Regions were 90% complete, while the later regions were just beginning.

Flue-cured production declined slightly, from 625 mn kgs in 2006 to 618 mn kgs in 2007.

Brazilian burley production increased, but only slightly in 2007, to 109 mn from 105 mn in 2006.

Meanwhile, the furnace-cured cigarette type galpão has enjoyed quite a comeback since its low point of 2003. The volume has more than doubled, from 5.1 mn kgs to 11 mn kgs for the 2007 crop. - (Bickers)

Reduced rainfall for dark air-cured
Arapiraca - The Arapiraca crop is estimated at 1.7 mn kgs. Buying began in early September.

The Bahia dark air-cured crop was running behind normal schedule at the end of August due to reduced rainfall, with an estimated crop size of 3.55 mn kgs. - (Bickers)

Harvest of a small crop
Tillsonburg - About 80% of the 2007 crop (all flue-cured) had been harvested by mid September. Farmers were helped by weather conditions that were normal for the month. There was still no prospect for an early governmental exit plan. - (Bickers)

Dominican Republic
Substantial increase in volume
Santo Domingo - Piloto Cubano tobaccos are of good to very good quality. Criollo crop quality is average to good, while the Olor crop is of above average quality.

Universal Leaf estimated volumes of the 2007 crop at Piloto Cubano 6.5 mn kgs, Criollo 3.0 mn kgs, and Olor 2 mn kgs. The total of 11 mn kgs is up from eight mn kgs in 2006. - (Bickers)

East Africa
Dark sales continue in Uganda
Kampala - In Uganda, purchasing of the early dark air-cured crop was under way in September. Production was estimated at 0.4 mn kgs, and crop quality was said to be good.

Seedbed preparation and in some cases resetting for the second crop had been completed. Production of the second crop was projected at 0.45 mn kgs.

In Tanzania and Malawi, buying had ended by the end of September. Production was just over one mn kgs in both countries. - (Bickers)

Some dark looked good, but some needed rain
Benevento - About half of the dark air-cured crop had been harvested at the end of August. Irrigated tobacco appeared good quality, and it was curing well, but about half of the crop needed rain. In the Benevento area, no rain fell at all in July and August. The crop size was estimated by Universal Leaf at 14.2 mn kgs. - (Bickers)

Burley volume headed up
Mzuzu - Sales of the 2007 burley crop ended on August 10, with 86.6 mn kgs sold at average US S1.73 per kg.

Tobaccos were reportedly of good to fair quality, with more lower quality styles.

Offerings at the Mzuzu market were mostly medium to good quality, with a large percentage of high-colored, upper stalk tobaccos.

A big increase is projected for 2008, up to around 135 mn kgs, said Universal Leaf. - (Bickers)

Burley volume varies
Tete - Mozambique expects to produce 36 mn kgs in 2008, roughly a fourth more than the 28.2 mn kgs volume of 2007. That volume would still be well below the 46 mn kgs produced in 2006. - (Bickers)

An estimate of dark production
World production of dark air-cured tobacco in 2007 was projected by Universal Leaf at 153.9 mn kgs, slightly more than the 2006 estimated production of 153.4 mn kgs.

World production of dark fire-cured tobacco in 2007, on the other hand, has been estimated at 35.8 mn kgs. This is a slight decrease from the 36 mn kgs produced in 2006. - (Bickers)

Sales come to an end
Lusaka - Through September 14, about 9.2 mn kgs of the 2007 flue-cured crop had been sold at an average price of US $2.28 per kg. A total crop of 19 mn kgs was projected, about 5% below the previous month. Final sales were expected September 28.

Next season’s production is expected to fall about 10% to 17 mn kgs. That would be about a quarter below the peak year of 2005. But burley production in Zambia is projected to rise from five mn kgs in 2007 to nine mn in 2008, reported Universal Leaf, bringing total leaf production to 26 mn kgs, down just a mn kgs from 2007. - (Bickers)

Tobacco International - November, 2007

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