Looking forward to 2010 - Fourth Quarter 2009
Previous work will pay off in the future
TFQ Editorial Staff
We all vividly remember the 2008 growing season, where input costs for tobacco growers shot up 20 percent to a head-turning $1.80 per pound. Along with the costs of seemingly everything going up—mimicking the price of oil—the biggest culprit in the jump was the price of fertilizer. Fertilizer, once a plentiful growing tool, is now tied to about 60 percent of the world’s food production. And with the world’s population quickly climbing, and large, heavily populated countries such as China and India becoming more affluent, the demand for food—or more to the point, the demand for the fertilizer that grows the food—will continue to skyrocket.
The demand for fertilizer has risen sharply since 2001, culminating in 2008 with the threat of a global food shortage. We knew farmers weren’t likely to see much relief in 2009 because fertilizer manufacturers had already purchased their raw materials at all-time highs, and those costs were going to be passed along to the customers. The hope was that 2010 would see the fertilizer prices drop back to “normal” levels, however, to no one’s surprise, that may not happen. According to the Millennium Project’s State of the Future report, world food production will need to increase 50 percent by 2013, and then double that in the next 30 years as the world’s population passes 9 billion. So the demand for fertilizer will only continue to rise.
The good news is that researchers saw this problem coming and, according to the International Plant Nutrition Institute, are working to make fertilizer more efficient. Efficient means applying a physical coating with controlled release properties, making the nutrients less soluble so they have to be converted chemically or biologically, and/or adding an inhibitor that will block or delay the biological process. However it is done, future fertilizers should be less soluble and therefore more available to plants and less likely to be lost in the soil.
The bottom line is that while successful farmers have always been frugal and efficient, to have continued success in an ever-changing world, tobacco growers are going to have to be even more so. Fertilizer is just one factor. And, as always, you’re going to have to be prepared to make adjustments. That’s why this issue of Tobacco Farm Quarterly is dedicated to issues that you’ll be dealing with for years to come. In the coming pages you will find an article that discusses the changing global tobacco industry, new seeds that are hitting the market, the growing demand for dark tobacco and the possibility of adding a side business to your operation.
The 2009 crop has gone to market and 2010 is right around the corner. It’s time to see what the future holds.