Tobacco Farming is a Disappearing Breed

Published on October 21st, 2011 00:00

Despite the fact that there is still tobacco in the fields to be gathered, Robeson County farmers are already declaring this year’s harvest is the worst one. Namely tobacco was once their most reliable and profitable crop. “Tobacco is gradually ending, it is a disappearing breed,” said Roger Oxendine, a Robeson County commissioner and one of the area’s greatest farmers. Oxedine declared that 10 years ago, he obtained about $2.05 a pound for tobacco. Currently prices have decreased by approximately a third to roughly $1.50.

A long-lasting drought and various diseases have destroyed this year’s tobacco crop. Mac Malloy, the county field crops agent, forecasts that tobacco growers could face a 30% decrease in the crop this season. The country gathers 2,200 pounds of tobacco per acre, however this year is planned to pick 1,500 pounds.


Oxendine stated that he expects even less, as the main part of his crop was affected with disease. “Such kind of tobacco is considered to be of a second quality and cigarette manufacturers are not interesting in purchasing it,” Oxendine said. According to statistics, the number of Americans lightning up has decreased significantly since 1970, from about 40% to 20%. But the rate stopped at 20% - about 45.5 million Americans -since 2005.

Cigarette producers like Phillip Morris and R.J. Reynolds contract with tobacco growers in order to increase their crops, so famers have only to grow tobacco if they have a contract. Oxendine even reduced the acreage of tobacco by about 200, leaving only 650 acres. Next year he is planning to grow even less tobacco. According to Malloy, the county allocated about 10,000 acres to tobacco crop in 1999. Farmers produced more than 20 million pounds of tobacco that year, which constituted about $25 million.

For instance in 2009, the country only produced 8 million pounds on 4,000 acres, which constituted $10 million. Starting from 2002, tobacco growers have dropped tobacco production by 70%. The average age of a Robeson County farmer is approximately, 58 years.

Oxendine declared that he employed about 30 people for this tobacco season, but if he were to stop growing tobacco, he would only need 5 or 7 people in order to work the rest of his 7,300 acres. “I even do not want to think about how many people have lost their jobs because of decreasing number of smokers,” Oxendine stated.

The revenues that farmers receive for their crops are rising, while the price of tobacco is dropping, prompting farmers to switch to other crops. “Currently wheat, corn and soybeans are the main cash crops in the country, because a significant acre of corn will assure you with the same profit as a good acre of tobacco these days,” Malloy concluded.

By Joanna Johnson, Staff Writer. Copyright © 2011 All rights reserved.

Related tags: Tobacco Farming | tobacco growers | cigarettes prices | tobacco plant

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