Monday, March 15, 2004

R.J. Reynolds to cut leaf purchase by half

By The Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. will cut its leaf orders by nearly half this year, according to North Carolina tobacco growers.

Company spokesman David Howard declined to discuss the second-largest U.S. cigarette maker's purchasing plans on Sunday.

"In terms of our purchases, our strategy is based on what we think volumes would be, what we anticipate what our needs will be," Howard said. "As the year goes on that might change."

State Agriculture Commissioner Britt Cobb said his department had been besieged with calls over the weekend from farmers who had been told the news.

"The word is filtering around pretty strongly," Cobb said. "Farmers are worried. All we can do is just continue trying to develop some new markets for leaf tobacco."

Reynolds and Richmond, Va.-based Philip Morris USA, the country's top cigarette maker, together purchase most of North Carolina's flue-cured tobacco.

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