Farmers shift to tobacco, 31/03/10

High tobacco  prices and the long dry spell are driving a record number of Ilocos Sur farmers to shift to tobacco growing this year, the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) said.

Renato Aquino, NTA supervising tobacco regulator in Ilocos Sur, said close to 11,000 farmers from the second district had planted about 8,000 hectares (ha) of Virginia tobacco this season. The district is the biggest Virginia tobacco producer in the country.
Floor prices of tobacco grew by as much as P5 a kilo, which convinced more farmers to shift from corn to tobacco, Aquino said.

The NTA floor price for Grade AA tobacco is P66 a kilo, while that for Grade A is P64 a kilo, Grade B P62, and Grade C P60.

Even tobacco rejects (Grade R) have been selling for P28 a kilo, the Inquirer learned.

“This time, Fortune Tobacco is buying Grade AA tobacco at P85 a kilo,” Aquino said.

He said the NTA has launched an aggressive tobacco crop program called “Balik Tabako.”

Of the 8,000 ha of Virginia tobacco planted this year, 5,432 ha are planted with crops described as having a neutral flavor, he said.

He said 1,836 ha are planted with tobacco with improved flavor while 731 ha are planted with full-flavored tobacco, which sells for the highest prices.

This city, which has been celebrating the tobacco festival every March since 1993, is the biggest Virginia tobacco-producing city in the country, with 1,283 ha of tobacco fields.

The second district is also cultivating about 1,000 ha of burley and native tobacco.

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