There was a positive feeling hovering in the air of the Holshouser Building at the N.C. State Fairgrounds in Raleigh on Feb. 1, the day of the Annual Meeting for the N.C. Tobacco Growers Association Annual Meeting. All the seats at the tables were pretty much filled, and others attendees continued to filter in, so by the end of the meeting they were standing restlessly all around the large, oval conference room.
The past crop year was a good year for growers like Brent Leggett of Nash County, president of the Association, and he let his pleasure be known when he delivered his annual report to the association, his President's Message. Leggett noted 2013 estimates for burley put demand steady in the 170 million pound range and that demand estimates for flue-cured size are up at 500 million pounds or more. The general consensus, he noted, is that crop size for flue-cured, absent any major weather losses, is projected at 480 million pounds. That is easy math. It puts demand higher than supply.
And TGANC believes that 480 million pound projected crop size is up 10-20 million pounds over what growers produced last year, Leggett noted.
"As we begin 2013, any grower with a positive reputation for growing quality leaf can sign contracts for more production than his farm might be able to produce," Leggett said. "The consistency of such reports indicates that demand should retain its pace exceeding the predictable supply for 2013."
Since the end of the federal tobacco quota system with The Fair and Equitable Tobacco Reform Act of 2004 more of the flue-cured tobacco acreage has shifted to North Carolina. But Leggett said while it is likely there will be expanded acreages for flue-cured in 2013, that expansion will more likely come in tobacco states south of the Tarheel State.
"In North Carolina, however," he said, "we hear little report of any great expanded acreage situations. And, growers indicate holding steady in their planted acres, if not a slight reduction of overall crop, in an effort to either shift some acres to wheat, corn and soybeans and try to catch a break on land rotation."
In any event, growing demand for tobacco is better news for growers than they had grown accustomed when the industry seemed to be in unending contraction just a few years ago. Perhaps the best news for growers was encapsulated in the title of Leggett's message. He called his message "Improving Stability." And a more stable market is something flue-cured growers have been clamoring for, for years. If Leggett is right, 2013 may be when the time is right.