About 70% of the flue-cured tobacco in India gets bought up by global buyers and then exported across the world. That’s about $921.1 million worth of tobacco that leaves the country each year.
Most of the world’s tobacco leaf production is focused on a few types of tobacco plants in a handful of countries. We are going to go over the main types of tobacco, what countries grow them, and the major tobacco producing countries in the world.
Tobacco Leaf Types
There are three main types of tobacco plants that are grown and harvested for consumption. However, there are well over 45 different accepted scientific names for the genus Nicotiana.
These tobacco leaves have a golden to deep orange colors to them. It creates a light aroma and taste after the completion of the curing process in a heated barn.
This tobacco is closer to tea in its physical characteristics and the way it is harvested. The leaves are small and require individual harvesting.
Then they cure in the open air under the sun. This creates a very aromatic and full flavored leaf.
Burley is a darker leaf in shades of brown. Unlike Virginia, which only requires a week, Burley is cured for up to two months.
Because of the long curing time, it has more of a cigar-like flavor. The process causes the leaves to lose most of their natural sugar.
There are two distinct blends created from those three types of tobacco that are in the majority of cigarettes today. There are Virginia cigarettes and blended cigarettes.
As the name would imply, Virginia tobacco is the main ingredient of this blend. Cigarettes that use this blend dominate in the UK and countries that are former British colonies.
The blend uses all three types of tobacco leaves to create a unique flavor profile. Other ingredients will also be added to help replace the sugar that gets lost during the curing process.
Blended cigarettes dominate in the United States, Latin America, most Asian markets, and most of Europe.
Countries That Grow Tobacco
There are over 30 countries worldwide that currently grow tobacco.
This light and airy tobacco is grown in the warmer climates in the United States, Brazil, India, Tanzania, China, and Argentina.
Oriental tobacco is mostly grown in the Mediterranean countries of Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, and Bulgaria.
This strong and earthly flavored tobacco is mostly grown in the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Italy, and Malawi.
China is easily the biggest producer of tobacco in the world. In 2016, 2.8 million metric tons were produced just from this one country!
The origins of tobacco in China trace back the 1500s. As European explorers spread across Asia and the Indian Ocean, so too did tobacco use.
Unlike other countries though, China mostly consumed tobacco that was grown within the country. By the 1800s, there was a thriving market in the country for high-end specialty tobacco leaves.
By the 20th century, China had a strong tobacco industry, supplying global demand that only continued to grow thanks to the industrial revolution. At the height of the production, there were more than 20 million rural farmers growing tobacco.
The country of India is in second place but doesn’t even come close to the production number that China puts up. About 761 thousand metric tons were produced in India in 2016.
While cannabis has been cultivated in India for centuries, it wasn’t until the 17th century that tobacco began to be grown. Growing began in the southern region after colonization by the British.
Most production was centralized in Bombay and Gujarati. But as the rail system expanded across the country, so did the popularity of tobacco bidis. This helped spread the production of tobacco too.
There are almost 100,000 registered farmers producing tobacco in India. However, there are countless more that are producing and not registered.
As the third top tobacco-producing country in the world, Brazil comes in at about 675 thousand metric tons.
Tobacco came to Brazil by way of the Indians migrating through the Andes and Central America. It was the colonists who began to cultivate the plant, though.
The colonist’s production was purely for personal consumption. But as demand grew both locally and in Europe, it soon became a crop to make a profit on.
In the beginning, most tobacco production was concentrated in the fertile land of the Recôncavo Baiano. After the Dutch were expelled in the 17th century, legislation was put in place to help regulate tobacco production.
There are about 135,000 farmers currently producing tobacco across Brazil.
The United States is fourth, but there is a noticeable drop in production volume. Just 285 thousand metric tons were produced in 2016.
After the US, the following countries produced 100 to 200 thousand metric tons:
- United Republic of Tanzania
Source Your Tobacco Leaves
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