Lifeline for tobacco farmers

The down and out of tobacco farmers of Krishna district are likely to sell their licenses and switch to other crops in the coming season after the recent decision of the Board of Tobacco to allow the transfer of the license barn farmers in other regions of the country, Karnataka on.

Hardly a year goes by when Krishna farmers must struggle to sell their shares mainly because traders tend to offer low prices referring to the poor quality of the crop. As a result, farmers may sell their shares and they do not give up tobacco farming. And it is due to the presence of pits.

Indeed, Krishna farmers require Tobacco Board compensation for the dismantling of their barns, they can move on to other cultures. After hectic lobbying, tobacco Council gave the green light to transfer the license to shed other regions in a recent meeting of the governing body.

Council’s decision to permit the movement of tobacco barns revived hopes of farmers from the areas and Kesara Kanchikacherla in Krishna district, Tullur in Guntur district and Bhadrachalam in Khammam who also would like to quit tobacco products in accordance with their mounting losses.

It is learnt that cash rich farmers of West Godavari district as well as those from Karnataka are rushing to Krishna district to grab the licenses from local cultivators.

According to initial inputs, nearly 1,800 barns in Kesara, Kanchikacherla, Tullur and Bhadrachalam would be cleared for transfer to other regions.

While the farmers in these areas are desperate to get rid of their tobacco licenses, those in Northern light soils (NLS) region Devarapalli, Koyyalagudem, Gopalapuram, Jangareddigudem in West Godavari seek to increase production, as there is a great demand for their shares in the international market .

In the absence of science policy, farmers in the region will be recognized NLS producing huge reserves without permission they nonetheless unload after paying a fine to the board. After careful study of the whole question, tobacco Chairman G Kamalavardhan Rao urged the council to shift unwanted barns in areas where there is demand for them.

Farmers from NLS belts are now trying to get the barns in Krishna, a move that would allow them to be performed by a stock in the future. Sources said that the farmers of West Godavari offer up to Rs 05.06 crore for the transmission license.

Apart from the cost to have the license transferred to the farmer will also have to pay for the construction of the shed, which can add another Rs 1.5 crore to its expenses. “With a license to put an end to year’s headache pay fines, NLS farmers are willing to pay huge sums for its transmission.

This will help us in a big way to clear our debts and go to other cultures, “said Purnachandra Rao, tobacco farmer Kanchikacherla.

Overall, there are about 42,000 authorized barns in the state and another 21,000 barns in Karnataka. Interestingly, the farmers from Karnakata, is believed to have built about 20,000 barns without permission and refused to remove them, despite warnings from the field. On the other hand, the board officials also failed to act tough against such unauthorized pits due to pressure from the public. Meanwhile, farmers of Krishna district are in no hurry to sell their barns in the hope of getting more awards waiting for some time. They hope to get around Rs.8-10 lakh for the barn, if farmers of Karnataka are also line up for the licenses.

Tobacco farmers are ignoring chances

When Roger Bock began trading business in the 1990s, the tobacco trade in Harare, the floors was quiet places, except for the melodious sound of the auctioneer.

Several white farmers, each sale of hundreds of bales of tobacco, arrived in sports cars, check the best hotels in the city, waiting for their big checks should be reduced. During the auction season this year, quite a different scene unfolded under the cavernous roof Paula Bock tobacco auction. Every day, hundreds of farmers arrived in vans and on the back of pickup trucks, many with wives and children in tow. They camped in the open field nearby and rush into the cacophony of sex to sell their crops. This place was lively and crowded; two women gave birth at the auction floor.

The most obvious difference, however, was the color of their faces: one of them was black. “Before, you see only white person here,” said Rudo Boca, Boca’s daughter, who now runs the family. “Now for all. This is a wonderful spectacle.” The government of Zimbabwe began the seizure of white farms in 2000, less than 2000 farmers growing tobacco, the most profitable crop in the country, and most of them white. The success of these small farmers has led some experts to reconsider the legacy of forced Zimbabwe’s land redistribution, even if they condemn its violence and destruction. But amid all this pain, tens of thousands of people have received small plots of land reform farms, and in recent years, many of these new farmers overcome early in the fight for fare very well.

With no other choice but to work the land, small farmers have made a go of it that the production does not coincide with the white farmers whose land they have, but they are far from the disaster many had expected, some analysts and academics. “We can not apologize for the way it was done,” said Ian Scoones, an expert on agriculture at the University of Sussex, who intensively study of land reform in Zimbabwe over the past decade. “But there are many myths that are caught – that land reform was a disaster, that all lands were seized by cronies in the ruling party that it was all a huge mess. It does not matter. Also, there was a resounding success.”

The result was a broad, if not painful, the shift of wealth in agriculture from white commercial producers on large farms to black farmers is much smaller plot of land. In the past year, these farmers have shared $ 400 million of tobacco, in accordance with the African Institute for Agrarian Studies, earning on average $ 6000 rubles, a huge sum for most Zimbabweans. “The money was divided between 1500 large-scale producers at the present time, together with 58 000 producers, most of them are small scale,” said Andrew Matibiri, director of the Zimbabwe Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board. “This is a major change in the country.”

New farmers receive virtually no help from the government, which for many years invested in the larger economy is given to the political elite is connected. Instead, farmers are receiving assistance from the tobacco industry, in the form of loans, advances and learning. In order to revive the industry Boca, so the company has invested significant funds to help farmers improve productivity and quality.

Tobacco is a complex culture that requires precise application of fertilizers and careful harvest. It should be treated and evaluated properly to get the maximum price. Recently, Alex Vokoto, Head of Public Relations at the auction, it is desirable to have noticed a few bales of cured tobacco leaves in a honey-colored on the floor and hurried the man who grew them, Stewart Mhavei, the VIP-lounge for a cup of coffee and a chat.

“This man is growing high-quality tobacco, and he only had him for three years,” said Vokoto. So far this season he has earned more than $ 10,000 on the part of a huge farm that once belonged to a white family, investing profits in the truck to transport his tobacco, as well as rent a truck with other farmers. Charles Taffs, chairman of the Union of commercial farmers, said that the industry could be transformed to include more black farmers in a much less destructive manner.

“The tragedy of tobacco in that expansion, if they had the right policies, can be done in the 1990s in connection with the commercial sector”, Taffs said. Instead, hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs and the country suffered huge economic losses as a result.

Tobacco output is still below its peak in 2000, when the harvest hit 236 million pounds.

Tobacco farmers into panic selling

Tobacco farmers continue to be at the receiving end of predatory traders. According to market analysts, farmers lost about Rs 400 crore for the expense of the low prices offered by traders. They were forced into panic selling for lower prices to wait and see approach merchants.

More than 90% of registered exporters and buyers kept away from the market for nearly two and a half months, leaving the entire platform tobacco auction at the mercy of the tobacco giant – Indian Tobacco Company (ITC). According to recent reports, more than 135 million kg of shares were sold for total authorized products 161 million kg this season.

While farmers are expected to at least 100 rupees per kilogram of low-grade tobacco, the middle class has demanded Rs 120 per kg. On the other hand, manufacturers of premium grade expected a price of RS 130 and RS140 per kg, but dealers do not even pay 110-120 rupees per kg. The low grade tobacco brought Rs 63 per kg for farmers, while the middle class went to 85-90 rupees per kg. “The rise in prices by 15 rupees per kg would help farmers profit Rs 120 lakh,” said former MP Yalamanchili Shivaji.

A former board member of Chunduri Rangarao argued that traders offered low prices for farmers, although there was a huge demand for Indian tobacco in the world market.

Recognizing that the absence of the leading players at the auction platforms have been put an end to the hopes of manufacturers, a senior official of the Board of Control said that the situation could be worse if the Council does not intervene to put pressure on the trading community.

Chairman of the Board Kamalavardhan Rao warned dealers that their move could provoke unrest in the farmers, who can declare the feast of harvest, and leave them in confusion. However, the exporter Tadisetty Muralimohan blamed it on poor export orders in the first days which kept them from auctions.

Prediction for next season to be “useful” year for exporters of tobacco, tobacco products, chairman G Kamalavardhan Rao suggest that they offer better prices for farmers. Speaking at a meeting at Ongole after the inauguration of the regional council office here, the Chairman stated that there were signs of lack of production in Brazil and Zimbabwe, which may be beneficial for Indian tobacco in the international market.

“So try to help farmers by offering them a decent price now. This will help you, too,” he suggested. He said that the farmer would make a good income to get a good harvest and help the exporter to get good prices on the international market. He said that the interests of farmers should be borne in mind.

Tobacco farmers need not fear

The letter’s author, “the WHO, tobacco farmers” (Jakarta Post, June 28) includes a lot of false information about the problem, which is misleading in the public. The entry should be set straight with facts.

Indonesia is not a party to the treaty of tobacco, the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).
The Working Group was established in accordance with Articles 17 and 18 of the FCTC, and they consist of a cross-section of tobacco growing countries, including Bangladesh, Brazil, the European Union and India,

 This working group has not yet called for a ban on tobacco and it is not aimed at forcing the farmers to do. The purpose of the report is to determine how farmers can receive assistance and to consider alternatives to tobacco, because they are already faced with numerous challenges that keep them in poverty, and must in many cases. Public Health is calling for a ban on tobacco growing, too. If the lie is repeated often enough, it has become a dangerous “truth” in the public consciousness.

There are approximately 65 million smokers in Indonesia who smoke 250 billion cigarettes a year. Currently, farmers can not grow enough tobacco to supply 65 million smokers. A large number of tobaccos leaf and thus imported. In addition, imports increased from 34,248 tones (17 per cent of total consumption) in 2000 to 65,685 tones (51 per cent of total consumption) in 2010. At the same time, tobacco production in Indonesia has decreased from 204,329 tons in 2000 to 135,678 in 2010. The increase in cigarette consumption should increase tobacco production, but in fact it is only an increase in tobacco imports.

The number of teenage smokers has increased by 19 percent, 200 percent more than in 1995 (7 percent our politicians need to do something, because more children in the age of 10 start smoking. All saw the image of a young boy online smoking and worrying, when there are no clear measures to protect our children. Education by itself is useless and ineffective, if tobacco advertising and sponsorship of sports and music is not forbidden. It is a pity that our young people can not enjoy music and sports tobacco-free, like the other kids around the world.

Many of the issues raised by the writer and the charges are identical to the myths perpetuated by the tobacco industry. Tobacco in Indonesia, in fact, some protected by the fact that each year 2 percent of the tobacco excise tax revenue goes directly to help the farmers in the form of excise tax distribution of income, which amounts to Rp 1.4 trillion (U.S. $ 149.8 million) a year.

Nelson, tobacco farmers, sin tax

I’m not a fan of Willie Nelson and his country western music. But I can not forget his collaboration with Wynton Marsalis, my idol for being one of the greatest trumpeters, and acts as a jazz and classical music. Nelson and Marsalis teamed up to play good music and released an album entitled “Two and a Blues.”
I like the blues, too. And I highly recommend Nelson and Marsalis album. Their interpretation, such as “Georgia on My Mind” gentle and sweet yet retains a shade of sadness.
So, I remember Willie Nelson for two things: first, his collaboration with Marsalis, playing and singing the blues; and second, his famous quote about farmers.
That quote well applies to the specific situation of our tobacco farmers.
Members of the House of Representatives of the tobacco growing regions of the resistance of tobacco tax reforms that the Aquino administration wants the legislation. In opposing the administration bill, these legislators — collectively called the Northern Alliance — invoke the plight of the tobacco farmers.
Their argument is simple. A significant increase in tobacco taxes will lead to a reduction of tobacco products and, therefore, adversely affect the farmers. But the threat to farmers is not supported by facts.
The truth is that tobacco farmers can shift from tobacco farming to other crops, without much difficulty. Rene Rafael Espino, a professor of agriculture at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, said that the soil and climate found in places where tobacco is grown are suitable for other crops such as vegetables, peanuts, corn and mungbean.
The choice of the farmer harvest should be developed mainly determined by the cost-effectiveness, as well as information and knowledge management, market support, as well as providing materials. The task of the government, it will provide support in terms of access to markets, inputs and technology.
The Ministry of Agriculture under the direction of the Secretary prosaic Alcala is fully aware of this and takes the necessary measures to meet the needs of farmers as they move from the cultivation of tobacco.
The fact is, too, that many farmers over the years have passed from the tobacco production of other crops. According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics show that tobacco products has decreased from 81723000 metric tons in 1990 to 40,529.77 metric tons in 2010. The peak of production during the 20-year period (1990-2010) amounted to 120,000 tons in 1992. But production plummeted to less than 60,000 metric tons in 1994 and subsequently declined in subsequent years. In addition, ha devoted to tobacco growing has decreased from 63,200 hectares in 1990 to 29,707 hectares in 2010.
In other words, tobacco production declined not because of high taxes (in the Philippines with one of the lowest tobacco taxes in the world). It should also be emphasized that under the current regime, where the rules have contributed to the monopoly of tobacco have to deal with monophony, which dictate prices.
All of this suggests that tobacco is no longer profitable or other crops, yield higher economic benefits for farmers. An empirical study entitled “Review of the tobacco growing areas in the Philippines”, in collaboration with Rene Rafael Espino, Danilo Evangelista, and Edgardo Ulysses Dorotheo and published in 2008, has the following conclusion:“In terms of income, vegetable, provided that high-income farmers, although this requires higher input costs and lower labor requirements compared to the Virginia brand of cigarettes. Corn, moonlight, and peanut farmers also prefer mainly due to low demand Employment and income provided along with tobacco. Thus, farmers tend to have more time to engage in other activities while at the same
The study found that “corn, beans [moonbeam, beans, and peanuts] and various kinds of vegetables, [tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, onions, etc.] are the preferred crop farmers to grow.”
This production of tobacco is a “sunset industry” Obviously; even government officials acknowledge the tobacco field. We had the opportunity to talk with Mary Jane Ortega, charming, polite, articulate and elegant ladies, three terms Mayor of San Fernando in La Union, and the wife of Rep. Victor Ortega, who happens to be president of the Northern Alliance. Ms. Ortega told us that she and Rep. Ortega understand that the tobacco industry is the sunset. Thus, her husband was trying to promote new industries as the production of honey and silk. Unfortunately, support for the market did not come, then, that the government could decide if a more interventionist.
Tax reform will benefit all sin, including tobacco. The increase in excise taxes on tobacco to fund public goods, especially universal health care, and will strengthen the macroeconomic environment, thus creating more jobs and reduce poverty. Tobacco will not only benefit from the provision of public goods, but also from the trust funds (15% of additional revenue from the excise tax on tobacco products) to be “exclusively used for programs to promote economically viable alternatives for farmers and workers.”
In conclusion, the champions and supporters of the bill to reform the tax on tobacco products are the ones who can claim that Willie Nelson said. “While there are a few farmers out there, we’ll continue to fight for them”

Investors and tobacco farmers

Legislator on the Committee of Agriculture yesterday ordered police to arrest two investors, whom they accuse of fraud tobacco produce in the country.
More than 10,000 tobacco farmers are demanding Shs23.6 billion from Continental Tobacco (U) Ltd, a private company run by Kenyan investors.
Nevertheless, corporate executives, who appeared before the committee to explain why they have not paid the farmers blamed the default on “difficult” economic situation and promised to pay when the situation gets better.
“We are concerned that farmers have not received their money in the billions but they come into this tobacco company,” Mr. Kasiriivu Atwoki, chairman of the committee, said.
“When we visited farmers in Kibaale district, we found them with plaques of books, serving as the proceeds from these investors. Farmers received loans, but these people keep their money.”
The company general manager, Mr Morris Micheni and Mr Michael Mwangi, who is responsible for finance and administration have been transferred from the police criminal investigation to take statements from them.
But Mr. Micheni denied his guilt and promised to pay the farmers, when the company receives cash.
“Around the world economic repression in 2008 and tobacco is no exception. Many cigarette manufacturers in the western world have been under the economic repression,” Mr. Micheni said. “We continue to hold large amounts of unsold from 2009. We are asking farmers to be patient, we will pay them.”
The committee has demanded a list of all affected farmers from tobacco growing areas and how the investors intend to pay them.
Moment of truth
“These investors are claiming that they have not paid farmers for only the previous year yet there are farmers who have not been paid since 2009. We are asking them to come clean and give us all the details. We don’t want farmers to be cheated by these investors.”
But after the interaction with the investors, the committee gave them until the end of this month to seek Shs23.6 billion, or be arrested for nonpayment.
Earlier, in his responses Mr Micheni said: “Our hands are tied. Borrowing from banks is not an option right now due to high interest rates, we must be careful with the finances.”
Asked whether farmers will be paid interest on delayed payments, Mr Micheni said they will not get any interest because the company invests with farmers without immediate returns.

Japan Tobacco Privatization a Threat


Far from the economic rationale in favor of full privatization of Japan Tobacco Inc., the world’s third-biggest cigarette maker, one group fears for its future: the country’s tobacco farmers.
About 400 farmers from across the nation gathered and then staged a demonstration Thursday, marching around Tokyo’s Nagatacho-district, the center of Japan’s government, to urge the case against selling off its 50% stake in the company, conceived as part of potential program of fund-raising to help the country cover the cost of restructuring after the March 11 disasters.
Japan Tobaccco, known universally as JT, itself has long expressed a desire to become a fully private company to better compete with its bigger global rivals — Philip Morris International Inc. and British American Tobacco PLC.
But farmers are strictly against the government and the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, which plan to transform JT eventually into a fully privatized entity within 10 years. They also showed strong opposition to plans for another round of tobacco tax hikes, adding another ¥2 per cigarette.
Current law requires the government to hold at least 5 million JT shares, or 50%, of the shares outstanding, and any share sale will require a law change, which in turn would be smoothed by cooperation from the Liberal Democratic Opposition party. The latter, though, has close ties with the tobacco lobby.
Tobacco farmers remain suspicious that any decline in the government’s stake in JT would be accompanied by the scrapping of the current tobacco sales framework here, under which the farmers have long been protected via an arrangement under which JT buys all tobacco leaf produced in Japan.
Any change in that poses a threat to future livelihoods, tobacco farmers say, because JT may buy larger amounts of cheaper tobacco leaf elsewhere.
“I have sons aged 19 and 17 but I can’t tell them to take over (my farm),” said Masakatsu Sakai, a farmer attending the gathering from Kumamoto prefecture in western Japan, the biggest tobacco producing prefecture in the country.
“If the government unloads its entire stake in JT, I have no doubt that JT would increasingly be driven in pursuit of profits, more than ever,” said Mr. Sakai, putting downward pressure on the price of tobacco leaf in Japan.
The potential change in JT’s shareholder structure comes amid increasingly uncertain times for Japan’s tobacco industry, with the number of smokers in the country having slid to a record low of about 21.7% of the population. Compared with a decade ago, the number of tobacco farmers in Japan has almost halved to 10,801 for this fiscal year.
The tempo of decline accelerated with lean harvests in recent years. A major tax hike — ¥3.5 hike per cigarette — implemented by the government in October last year led to a hike of close to 40% in the price of a pack of cigarettes.
Earlier this year tobacco farmers found about 40% of them have already decided to discontinue tobacco farming next year, according to JT and farmers.
“I’ve lost many fellow farmers…they decided to quit because of inability to make a living and no prospect for the future,” said Mr. Sakai.
One point of optimism for the farmers — privatization still has a very long way to go before becoming reality.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is already struggling to cope with what’s called in Japan a “twisted parliament.” While the DPJ controls the lower house of parliament, after a defeat in national elections last year, the ruling DPJ lost its majority in the upper house of parliament.
And that means the government could be dependent on the cooperation of the opposition parties like LDP to enact any law to change JT’s shareholding structure, cooperation that may be a long way off.
By Hiroyuki Kachi

Tobacco worries – Jamaica in treaty contravention

The Jamaican Government seems set to face censure at a high-level international meeting which starts tomorrow in New York over its perceived failure to stand by its international obligations to stem tobacco cultivation in the country.
A Rural Agriculture Development Authority 2011 study has found that Jamaica is in breach of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) to moderate cultivation, as hundreds of tobacco farms have sprung up all over the country.
Health Minister Rudyard Spencer is strenuously seeking to fend off accusations ahead of the United Nations meeting, which he is set to attend, that the Government lacks the political will to abide by the treaty.
Jamaica has been a signatory to the FCTC treaty since 2005.
The survey found that tobacco cultivation has expanded unimpeded over the past two years, with many farmers failing to use scientific or technologically advanced measures to determine maturity of the tobacco.
It also revealed that many other farmers are seeking a foothold in the industry because tobacco is raking in big bucks, running into millions of dollars.
The estimated value of the tobacco industry is some J$397 million at the farm gate. Speaking with The Sunday Gleaner, chairman of the Heart Foundation of Jamaica Coalition for Tobacco Control, Dr Knox Hagley, predicted that Jamaica faces embarrassment for its nonchalant attitude to tobacco cultivation when it attends the upcoming upcoming United Nations High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases scheduled for this month.
Hagley lamented that there is no clear-cut sanction for breaching the treaty, except embarrassment and public outcry.
Agriculture Minister Robert Montague said he was unaware of the effects of Jamaica’s obligation under the WHO treaty with respect to tobacco cultivation.
But Spencer said while he had received word that tobacco farming had become a lucrative endeavour in recent years, he was not willing to encroach on the agriculture minister’s domain by making far-reaching comments.
Hagley revealed that the failure of the Jamaican Government continues to be a cause for concern at the regional and international levels, with the most recent expression of dismay being an article in the British Medical Journal publication, ‘Tobacco Control’, on June 25.
The report has found that the number of tobacco farmers has swirled over the past two years, while ganja production is on the decline, even as consternation heightens in international and regional quarters that the Government lacks the will to do anything about problem.
As government representatives prepare to attend the high-level meeting, another challenge that it faces is that the piece of proposed legislation does not specifically address the issue of curtailing the tobacco cultivation in Jamaica.
In addressing the issue of tobacco control, The FCTC treaty that Jamaica signed and ratified in 2005, stipulated, among other things that alternative crops should be provided for the tobacco farmers.
However, the long-awaited legislation does not address the issue of tobacco cultivation.
Experts in the tobacco industry theorise that many of the former ganja farmers have turned their attention to the cultivation of tobacco which produces the increasing popular ‘beadie’ and ‘gabby’.
Spencer, in defending the Government’s position, told The Sunday Gleaner that he has encountered a plethora of unforeseen challenges getting legislation before the Parliament over the past four months.
Government anxious
“There is all the will in the world to get this legislation before Parliament. Dr Fenton Ferguson (opposition spokesman on health) supports it, Ronnie Thwaites (an ardent anti-smoking activist) supports it; the Government is anxious to bring it, but a set of circumstances has prevented it up to now.”
The minister said the bill was sent to the Attorney General’s Department, after which it was dispatched to Chief Parliamentary Counsel’s office, who said they were short staffed.
Spencer told The Sunday Gleaner that after a series of back and forth, his ministry finally received the bill.
However, he encountered another obstacle when his legal department decided that it could not be taken to Parliament in the form in which it was completed, forcing the health ministry to send it back to the Attorney General’s Department.
After a series of hiccups, Spencer said he expects the bill will reach his hands shortly.
By Gary Spaulding
gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com

Irene leaves N.C. crops in ruins

CRAVEN COUNTY, N.C. — Before Hurricane Irene smacked his tender tobacco plants sideways, David Parker was headed for a terrific tobaccocrop, maybe his best in 32 years of farming.
Now, as Parker rushes to save a few acres of shredded leaves before they rot on the dying stalks, the math looks different.
“I’ve never had a year I didn’t make money farming, but I think this will be the one that gets us there,” he said Wednesday, driving up a dirt road between a beaten-down cotton field and a 17-acre patch of dejected-looking tobacco.
The green-gold tobacco leaves — which normally this time of year would be spread wide, waiting to be plucked, dried at a careful pace and taken to market — were hanging straight down, shriveled, with the stalks leaning the way that the wind had pushed them.
That’s what this agricultural disaster looks like: wilted leaves, angled stalks, a tangle of cotton plants with fat bolls that had looked unusually promising but now might not open. Subtle stuff to everyone but the hundreds of farmers who, like Brown, now face what may be their worst losses ever.
“That’s not vacation cottages. It’s these people’s whole way of making a living, and the impact will spread throughout all the people and businesses that rely on farmers,” said Graham Boyd, executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina.
“It’s a tragedy, just terrible, terrible stuff.”
State and federal officials say it will be at least weeks before the full extent of the farm losses are known, but the effect on tobacco, which is grown in much of the area where the storm punched hardest, is extensive.
“Most of the counties I cover, pretty much any tobacco still in the field is going to be close to a 100 percent loss,” said Dianne Farrer, a regional agronomist for the state who works in more than a dozen eastern counties, including some of the state’s biggest tobacco producers.
“I’ve talked to several growers, and they’re just disheartened,” she said. “If it’s leaned over or knocked over, they can’t harvest mechanically, and if they don’t get in and harvest what’s left by hand, by the end of the week it will be lost.”
Cotton damaged
Many cotton growers — often farmers who are also growing tobacco — could also take big hits. However, it will take awhile for them to be able to tell how badly the plants were damaged, unlike the tobacco that’s knocked over and tattered, Farrer said.
Farmers can get federally backed crop insurance, and many are covered for losses of 70 percent or 75 percent of their harvest last year, Boyd said. Most, though, expected a bigger crop at better prices this year, so the gap between real losses and the insurance payments could be huge.
It’s only designed as a safety net to help farmers pay the bills they piled up planting a year’s crops, not cover their expected profits, he said.
Farm crews usually make about four harvest-time passes through tobacco fields. First, they take the lowest leaves, which ripen first, then work their way up as the leaves turn gold, taking a few leaves with each round. The later rounds are the most valuable.
This year, drought had slowed the harvest. When the storm hit, many — including Parker —had done only one full round and part of the second. The real money was left vulnerable on the stalks.
Some of Parker’s friends were calling around Wednesday, sharing what they had heard from their insurance adjusters. Parker’s told him to send his crew out in the fields to straighten up the stalks and pack the soil down around their roots so they will stay upright and recover.
That works if plants are pushed over by an early-season storm while they’re still growing. But it’s a waste of time and labor this late in the season, Boyd said.
“That’s throwing good money after bad,” he said. “And if they order them to go out and harvest this stuff, a lot of it is going to be such poor quality they won’t get anything for it anyway.”
Parker told the adjuster it made no sense to dump $100 or $200 an acre pushing the plants up but that he’d do his best to harvest whatever might be salvageable.
He and his son, Josh, spent much of Wednesday morning shoulder to shoulder with their crew of about a dozen workers, yanking freshly cured tobacco that had been harvested before the storm out of a metal curing barn, then filling the barn with the first of the salvaged leaves to cure. In a few days, they’ll know how it turned out.
After the barn was loaded, Parker took a visitor on a ride to look at the battered tobacco and cotton fields across the highway from the barns. They were part of the collection of several small fields he farms that add up to 100 acres of tobacco — the real money-maker — plus 180 of cotton and 300 of corn that was badly stunted by drought.
These crops have to support Parker, his wife, a daughter in college, Josh, their work crew and, to a degree, the land owners he rents from, Parker’s propane supplier, the people at the transfer station where he takes the tobacco and everyone else he does business with.
The storm had been gone for three days, but the fields were still so muddy that his pickup quickly sank in up to the rear axle. He shook his head and climbed out: one more problem in a week of nothing but.
“It was the kind of crop you hope for, a real vintage year,” he said walking along, not even glancing at the battered plants on either side. “My experience of farming is you never get there, though. It gets pulled out from under you somewhere along the line.”

Some U.S. Farms Trade Tobacco For A Taste Of Africa

For the past 10 years, farmers in tobacco-growing states have been slowly saying goodbye to that old leaf in favor of other crops.african produce
Of course, there’s lots of corn and soy replacing tobacco, but some farms are testing out specialty crops that appeal to recent immigrants.
George Bowling’s farm in southern Maryland is one such place. He started growing African vegetables about a year ago, but he has worked on farms growing corn and tobacco for much of his 70-something years.
The only sign suggesting that you’ve arrived on the property is a simple white wooden one. It says “African produce” in red letters, painted by hand.
Bowling took me on a tour of his fields on a steamy mid-August day.
“I’ve had the African eggplant, I’ve had the hot peppers, yellow tomatoes, red tomatoes, okra, and potato leaves, watermelon, cantaloupe,” he says, pulling his dusty baseball cap down to shade his eyes.
This year, seven acres of his 60-acre farm were dedicated mainly to new African crops he hadn’t planted before — something of an experiment, he says.
A Request For Sweet Potato Leaves
Bowling’s wife, Julia, says they started researching African crops after some customers asked for sweet potato leaves to cook with.
“We’d never heard of anybody that ate sweet potato leaf, and when we plowed our sweet potatoes last year, that’s when they first started coming in,” she says.
Sweet potato leaves are used like spinach in many cultures, added to a stir fry or an African stew.
Customers asked Bowling to plant African produce and said they would come to pick it, she says, so he gave it a shot. He ordered specialty seeds for vegetables like “garden eggs” — tiny green African eggplants — and chocolate habanero peppers, and planted them.
And now many customers come to Bowling’s farm, picking 16-pound bags of hot peppers at a time. They load up their cars, drive home, tell their friends and come back for more. It’s mostly word-of-mouth marketing.
If you can find these peppers at a specialty market, they are often expensive or dried out, says Gladys Fontem, who is originally from Cameroon. She wears surgical gloves to protect her hands while picking the hot peppers. She comes to pick, she says, because the peppers here are fresh, and the farm is clean.
“You can’t cook without peppers,” says Fontem. “We love that spicy stuff.”
But there’s another reason they come, according to her sister, Ara: “It gives us a taste of home. The smell, the fields — it’s like we’re back home.”
Market Potential
There’s a big market for African crops in the D.C. area. Nearly 120,000 people born in Africa live in the metro area, according to the U.S. Census.
In other parts of the country, the foods of home are different.
A recent study by Rutgers showed that the demand for Mexican, Indian, Chinese and Puerto Rican produce is worth more than a billion dollars — on the East Coast alone.
As tobacco taxes have gone up and imported tobacco has flooded the market, many farmers are looking to try new things.
In Maryland, the state gave some farmers an incentive.
In 2000, it offered to buy out farmers who grew significant amounts of tobacco if they promised to stop growing tobacco but keep their land in agriculture for 10 years. More than 80 percent took the offer, according to Christine Bergmark of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission, the agency that administers the tobacco program.
So some farmers are trying out wine grapes, some are giving public farm tours and Halloween hayrides, and some are testing African and other specialty ethnic crops.
African crops are fairly new, but they are not just limited to the ethnic market. Some farmers are even starting to take their products to urban farmers markets and high-end restaurants.
Crops Adjust To A New Climate
Growing new crops in this climate isn’t easy.
Yao Afantchao came to Maryland from Togo about 20 years ago. He missed the taste of home and brought seeds with him to experiment. He tried peppers and melons, and more exotic things like edible hibiscus and jute leaves. Turns out they grow fairly well, but they take some adjustments.
“We have few problems. We have a weather problem. This is a temperate zone, and so the growing period is shorter,” he says.
Eventually, the University of Maryland hired him to help set up a program that would educate farmers about how to grow the crops and find markets.
He still works with several Maryland farmers, as well as with city garden farmers through the University of the District of Columbia.
But farming is not easy work, no matter what is growing. With the hot, rainless July and the downpours of August, it’s been tough, says farmer Bowling. He lost a field full of cantaloupe.
“A total loss almost,” he says, pointing to the withered vines. “But that’s farming.”
Still, Bowling doesn’t miss tobacco. Even though he says he’s retired, he puts in 15-hour days now. I ask him if he makes any money.
“I probably got a net return of a dollar an hour now … this is a lot of hard work and kind of a minimal return,” he says.
So, why do it?
“I just love dealing with people,” he says.
He also loves the farm, and this area — Charles County — where he grew up.
“We’ve got it all — we’ve got mountains in the back, [the Chesapeake] Bay on the East, Potomac River there, I can go to the bay and fish and crab, I mean, what else could you want?”
By April Fulton