Tobacco Asia

Volume 20, Number 3

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tobaccoasia 53 • Double your resource value • Use 100% expanded fine- cut for MYO and RYO • Untouchable product quality • Impex – pressure/vacuum technology • DIET - Dry Ice Expansion Technology AircoDIET has supplied more than 55 DIET plants worldwide, many of which have been turn-key. We continuously develop and refine the DIET process and our DIET plants have above 95% uptime with a dry yield better than 98.5% through the plant. Over 100% tobacco expansion (Images courtesy of Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative Association) Green tobacco growing in a field "Consistent with this purpose, our major goal is to improve profitability and stability for our members, while maintaining or increasing production market share." Not just an association Although BTGCA at first glance may seem just like any other growers' cooperative or association, it also actively operates as a burley leaf dealer out of its Lexington head- quarters. "We purchase our burley tobacco directly from our grower members through mar- keting contracts and process our leaf ready to sell, offering [it] for sale worldwide," Pratt says. To facilitate that, the association maintains an inventory of currently avail- able burley lots on its website that interested buyers can easily access (see sample table 1). Sales prices are based on [BTGCA's] input costs and delivery costs. "We offer samples to prospective customers at no cost and negotiate prices based on quantity and destination. Our tobacco prices are quoted FOB Wilmington, North Carolina, based on full 40' container load." While some of the association's customers come from the U.S., the bulk of its to- bacco is exported around the world, much of it going to Asia. This is as much the result of diligent marketing on behalf of the association as it is due to the discontinuation of the US federal government's tobacco program in 2004. "[After that support program ended], we have worked hard to develop a worldwide customer base by attending trade shows and meeting potential clients," said Pratt. "As a result, we sell [today] more burley tobacco abroad than within the United States. We have shipped several hundred tons of US burley tobacco to Asian countries and hope to continue to work with our current customers as well as reach new ones." QC is priority The typical direct customers supplied with the association's leaf are cigarette manufac- turers but also other traders. To ensure consistent quality of its merchandise, BTGCA employs a full-time tobacco grader with over 40 years of experience, who is responsi- ble for purchasing leaf from the association members and also oversees the processing. Certified processing facilities and grading labs are used, after which the ready-for-sale tobacco is stored in one of the association's own warehouses. "All of our burley tobacco is grown by certified growers utilizing good agricul- tural practices to provide worker safety, protect the environment, and allow traceability from the farm to the consumer," Pratt asserts. The volume of burley tobacco offered for sale is adjusted according to customer demand and as Pratt says, "varies from year to year." But he assures that the associa- tion's warehouses always store enough inventory to meet those needs. Rightly insisting that "US burley tobacco has a reputation as [being] the finest in the world", Pratt also admits that "quality never comes at a cheap price." In that respect, BGTCA must com- pete with the value of the US dollar against other currencies, as well as lower quality and lower priced tobacco offered in the global market.

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