Tobacco auctions in Karnataka are off to a good start for the 2022-23 marketing season with prices opening higher by nine per cent over the previous year on an anticipated shortfall in production in the State.

The auctions, which began on Monday in all the 10 platforms, have raised hopes among the growers of a better season ahead. There are two tobacco auction platforms in Ramanathapura, three in Periyapatna, two in Kampalapura, two in Hunsur and one in HD Kote.

Weather impact

The Tobacco Board had fixed a crop size of 100 million kg (mkg) for Karnataka in the 2022-23 season — 14 per cent higher than 88 mkg last season.

“The production is considerably low this year. The target given to farmers was 100 million kg this year, but we are expecting an actual crop of around 60 million kgs as excess rains have impacted the output this year,” B V Javare Gowda, President, Federation of Karnataka Virginia Tobacco Growers Association in Periyapatna, Mysuru, said. The opening prices are ₹202 per kg compared with ₹185 per kg last season, he said.

“Excess rains have impacted the yield. Plants couldn’t consume the fertilisers applied, resulting in leeching out of the nutrients,” said Gowda, also the former vice-chairman of Tobacco Board.

Quality good

“Though quality could have been impacted due to the rains, the colour and complexion of the tobacco leaves are good this year,” Gowda said. Last year, the production of low grades was higher. However, this year the output of low grades has dropped. The harvest of tobacco crop is over and growers have been curing and grading the produce in their barns. Tobacco is grown on over 75,000 hectares in Karnataka.

The Virginia tobacco — the main variety produced in the southern parts of Karnataka — is branded as Mysuru tobacco and has good export demand. Over 80 per cent of the output is shipped overseas. Mysuru tobacco can be blended with any other tobacco in the world as its chemistry is good and it has less nicotine, less tar and less sugar, Gowda said.

“There will be lot of competition among the buyers this year resulting in higher prices. Compared with the previous years and looking at the lower production, growers’ hopes of a good season are high and are expecting prices to rise to ₹250-300 per kg,” Gowda said.