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The South African tobacco industry which is completely geared towards the home market has been going through a problematic period during the last few years.
The Tobacco Board, a statutory body consisting of representatives of both growers and manufacturers, plus an additional nominee of the Ministry of Agriculture and an advisor who are responsible for ensuring orderly marketing of tobacco in accordance with the Marketing Act, is trying its best to aim at, as well as encourage, a market orientated product by means of purposeful research and extension, not only to the benefit of the industry itself but also to the country's economy.
The objective has been to improve the quality and desirability of tobacco, especially flue-cured, in order to produce high quality cigarettes entirely from local tobaccos and reduce the need to import high quality desirable tobaccos from South Africa's neighbors to the north. Growers are being encouraged to improve their cultural practices and curing techniques in order to enhance the quality and desirability of their tobacco and grade price increases have been made with this objective in mind.
Grade prices up 50-75% since '85
Comparing the grade prices in the 1988/89 selling season with those of the 1984/85 season, flue-cured prices have increased by 50% to 70% for the medium to better grades about 40% for the low to medium grades and the very low quality grades are no longer purchased; for burley, grade prices have risen by about 40% but the lower qualities are no longer bought; and both dark and light air-cured tobacco grade prices have risen about 75% apart from the very low grades which have been halved in price.
Some sections of the industry feel that the problem of the high percentages of unacceptable styles is due to the unsuitability of the existing cultivars grown …