HARTSVILLE, Tenn. - One of Tennessee’s few tobacco receiving centers, Holder's Burley Exchange, said it will be closing down this year.
The company made the announcement following a loss of contract with Alliance One, an agriculture company with a focus on tobacco.
The receiving center served about 280 clients and operated for more than 40 years. The company’s owner, Stanley Holder, has been in the tobacco industry for more than 50 years, but finds himself doubting the future of tobacco in America.
"Mid February of this year, Alliance One had been buying tobacco here or contracting tobacco here for 19 years,” said Holder. “Then, mid-February they decided to quit contracting in the United States. So, they closed this station."
Imports and a decrease in the amount of tobacco consumption have reduced the market for domestic tobacco.
Holder’s receiving center would see upwards of seven millions of pounds of tobacco each year pass through the facility. Wednesday, the warehouse was mostly empty, with only a couple rows of tobacco in the back.
"Tobacco farmers here have been devastated by this,” said Holder. “They just don't know what to do. There's no other alternative crop to grow to produce the same amount of income."
The tobacco warehouse has been a staple in the Hartsville community. Locals worry if there could be an impact on the economy there.
"That's what Hartville is known for. It's tobacco and football,” said Kendra Maddox, a worker at Dellehay’s Café. "It's sad for the community and it's sad for them because it's all they've ever done."
Holder’s son, Jason Holder, planned to take over the business with his brother, Blake, but isn’t sure there will be a business if this trend keeps up.
“I don't know how it's going to pan out in the next 5-10 years,” said Jason. “It's been a steady decline but this is a major decline. All of the sudden it's dried up to pretty much zero."
The Holders are still growing about 50 acres of tobacco compared to their usual 130. They were able to obtain some small contracts from friends in other areas.
"It puts a damper on what we're doing here," said Holder.
Alliance One International released the following statement:
“With U.S. cigarette sales declining at a rate of 3% per year over the past three years, and global cigarette sales following a similar trend, demand for the U.S. burley tobacco crop has declined as well. As a result, we made a difficult decision to not contract any U.S. burley tobacco this year. We understand the economic impact that tobacco has on farmers and their local communities, and this decision was not a reflection of the farmers or their crop quality, but rather the change in global demand.”