November 9, 2000 | By: Laura Skillman

For farmers in west Kentucky dark air-cured and fire-cured tobacco has been a bright spot in recent years in an otherwise gloomy tobacco picture. But that may be changing.

"For the first time in several years, I do have some concern about the dark tobacco situation," said Will Snell, University of Kentucky Extension tobacco economist.

Kentucky's dark tobacco has enjoyed a much better supply/demand balance in recent years than burley tobacco. Domestic snuff production and consumption has increased steadily for the past two decades, unlike U.S. cigarette production and consumption.

Snuff production, which requires large amounts of dark tobacco, is expected to continue to expand in 2000. However, dark tobacco is also used in chewing tobacco, where production continues to see a steady decline.

Production of dark tobacco in recent years has generally been above demand, but limited volumes have been placed under loan because companies have been willing to take the additional stocks. Over the years, they have built up stock and so the question becomes are they willing to take on more, Snell said.

This year's crop is large. For the 2000 season, dark fire-cured tobacco growers received a 7 percent quota increase with air-cured farmers getting an increase of 4 percent.

The 2000 crop estimates are above demand and it is questionable whether the companies will purchase all the expected extra supply. The September crop report estimated a 44.4 million pound dark fire-cured tobacco crop which is 25 percent above 1999's crop and a 13 million pound dark air-cured tobacco crop which is 12 percent above 1999 production.

Consequently, prices will likely vary considerably by quality and the possibility of tobacco being stockpiled by grower-run pools could evolve this season especially for dark fire-cured tobacco, Snell said. This could result in quota reductions for the 2001 crop.

Sales of dark air-cured tobacco begin in December with dark fire-cured sales beginning in January in warehouses across western Kentucky.


Will Snell, (859) 257-7288