Global reps learn about high-quality Virginia tobacco
Representatives from Bulgaria, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam, along with some U.S. tobacco buyers, visited the Southside Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center and a tobacco farm Sept. 12. The visits were part of Tobacco Associates Inc.’s 2018 International U.S. Leaf Grading School. Tobacco Associates is a trade organization funded by U.S. tobacco growers to promote their products.
The school includes tours and a two-week training program to help leaf buyers and tobacco manufacturers learn more about raising, curing and blending U.S. tobacco. Students receive four days of intense classroom training about tobacco leaf quality before visiting farms and seeing the process in person.
The event was co-hosted by Virginia Farm Bureau Federation and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and co-sponsored by the Virginia Tobacco Board.
“Although we had to cut the training mission short by two days due to Hurricane Florence, we provided our 15 international participants with a detailed, hands-on study of our tobacco and its superior grade and quality characteristics,” said Hank Mozingo, president of Tobacco Associates Inc. “Our trip to Virginia further highlighted the considerable research and extension and level of farmer expertise and commitment that is required to produce the world’s finest tobacco.”
The tobacco school is funded by flue-cured tobacco growers in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
At C&C Farms in Brunswick County, students observed the farm’s mechanized tobacco harvesting. They also saw tobacco barns and learned about leaf handling and grading systems.
“C&C Farms is an efficient and innovative operation and were keen to participate in this year’s tour,” said Jennifer Atkins, program manager for the Virginia Tobacco Board and VDACS’ domestic sales and market development for Southside Virginia. “Their tobacco farming operation was an excellent showcase of not only Virginia flue-cured production, but U.S. production as a whole.”
More than 80 U.S. tobacco blends are sold worldwide, and nearly 70 percent of U.S. flue-cured tobacco, the type the group viewed Sept. 12, is exported.
Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring said she is “very proud of our Virginia producers and Virginia tobacco” and noted that Virginia farmers grow some of the best tobacco in the nation.
Currently, Ring noted, about 375 Virginia tobacco growers are raising 22,000 acres of flue-cured tobacco, 1,000 acres of burley and 280 acres of fire-cured tobacco. The state’s cumulative tobacco crop generates about $287 million in exports, and the top export markets are Switzerland, Belgium and Vietnam.