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Tobacco Markets Open In South Carolina

August 2, 1988

HEMINGWAY, S.C. (AP) _ South Carolina’s largest cash crop - aromatic, golden tobacco leaf - went to market today as the staccato chant of auctioneers sounded on warehouse floors.

This year’s crop was expected to bring $160 million in revenues.

″Overall it’s one of the best crops we’ve had in a long time,″ said Agriculture Commissioner Les Tindal as he surveyed piles of tobacco at the growers Big 4 Warehouse.

Warehouses here as well as in Mullins, Lake City and Darlington- Timmonsville had opening-day auctions today. Auctions will be held for the first time this year in Loris, Conway and Kingstree on Wednesday.

Observers predicted higher prices in South Carolina than last year’s opening day average of $138.58 per hundredweight. For the 1987 season, $151.6 million worth of tobacco was sold.

Early prices at the Star-New Hope Warehouse outside Lake City ranged from $124 to $148 per hundredweight. At Planter’s Warehouse in Lake City, some tobacco brought as much as $164.

Gov. Carroll Campbell stopped by Planter’s Warehouse, walking along the rows of tobacco as the auctioneers and buyers followed purchasing leaf.

Later, Campbell criticized anti-smoking activists for attacking the crop which he said pumps $300 million, with the ripple effect, into the South Carolina economy.

″If some of these people who are screaming and yelling did as much to fight illegal things - if they shut down the marijuana fields and eliminated the dope - instead of going and trying to beat down something that’s legal and has been forever in the United States this country would be a lot better off,″ he said.

″We’ve got a good quality crop,″ said DeWitt Gooden, a tobacco specialist with the Clemson Extension Service. ″While weather conditions haven’t been ideal this season, recent rains have filled out the tops of the crop.″

There were strong opening day sales on Georgia-Florida markets last week - with prices averaging $136.59 per hundredweight. That’s up $8.70 from last year.

Cooler weather than normal during the spring left this year’s crop about a week behind, Tindal said earlier. ″What we have to do now is to convince the growers to leave their crop in the field until it’s fully mature,″ he said.

While there are more acres of soybeans than any other crop planted in the state, tobacco is stil king in sales, said Sonny Smith of the South Carolina Agriculture Department.

Tobacco brought in $156.1 million last year, and soybeans just over $91 million.

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