Flue-cured growers got paid more for their crop in 2003 than the previous year, in spite of selling about 10 percent less tobacco than they did in the previous year, according to the Flue-Cured Tobacco Cooperative Stabilization Corporation.

While yields per acre were lower, the quality of the crop was higher than the previous, drought-affected harvest. There was also less carryover and less effective quota for the 2003 season.

During the season, fine and good quality tobacco increased by 16 percentage points while fair and low quality tobacco declined 15 percentage points.

The higher quality translated into higher prices for growers in 2003 than in 2002.

Demand was light on the auction, but higher quality grades going under loan pushed averages higher.

Total sales for 2003 were 505.7 million pounds, or 94.3 percent of the effective quota. In 2002, some 561.4 million pounds, or 97.1 percent of the effective was marketed.

On the auction floor — both independent and the Co-op's Marketing Centers — sales totaled 93.7 million pounds, or 18.5 percent of the total flue-cured marketings.

The average auction price was $179.47 per hundredweight.

At 14 Co-op Marketing Centers, growers received an average price of $180.75 per hundredweight for selling 59.9 million pounds. That was $3.89 higher than in 2002.

The 13 independent warehouses sold 33.7 million pounds at an average price of $177.19 per hundredweight. That was $4.73 higher than in 2002.

Contract centers paid an average of $186.48 per hundredweight on 411.9 million pounds. The price was $2.15 higher than in 2002. Contracting continues to make up about 80 percent of all flue-cured production.

For the year, total loan receipts were 68.1 million pounds — 13.5 percent of total marketings and 72.7 percent of the total producer pounds sold at auction.

The average price support for total loan receipts was $180.26 per hundredweight, $6.74 higher than 2002.

e-mail: cyancy@primediabusiness.com