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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Burley tobacco buyers want their leafs sorted by grades, and doing so will help Tennessee growers in the long run, a University of Tennessee tobacco specialist said Thursday.

 Dr. Don Fowlkes said stronger demand and other market factors last year created a one-price market where buyers paid a flat $1.92 per pound for all tobacco. This encouraged Tennessee growers to mix higher quality leaf with lesser grades.

 However, buyers are more selective this year and paying more for higher grades, Fowlkes said. This year’s prices range from about $1.85 to $1.95 per pound, he said.

Selling different grades at varied prices instead of mixed grades at a fixed price makes Tennessee growers more quality conscious and competitive in overseas markets, Fowlkes said.

 “I would rather see the kind of burley markets we have right now than last year’s one-price market,” Fowlkes said. “This kind of market encourages and supports grading of tobacco by different quality concerns, such as how high the leaf is on the stalk.

 “That helps ensure that we will maintain our customers over the long haul. We’ve already lost customers for U.S. tobacco over the last few years because we’ve had so much mixed-grade tobacco.”

 The State Agricultural Statistics Service reports Tennessee growers sold about 88 million pounds of burley in 1996 for $169 million. This year, an estimated 83 million pounds is expected to go for about $159 million.


 Contact: Dr. Don Fowlkes (423-974-7208)