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Tobacco growers still the butt of price story

| May 15, 2015

Zimbabwe’s flue-cured tobacco growers are continuing to suffer the effects of lower prices, which have fallen nearly 10 percent year-on-year.

Growers sold 92.2 million kg of flue-cured for US$267.7 million at an average price of US$2.90 per kg as of May 8, according to a story by Tatira Zwinoira for Newsday Zimbabwe, relayed by the TMA and quoting Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board figures.

During the corresponding period of last-year’s sales season, growers sold 96.1 million kg of flue-cured for US$308.7 million at an average price of US$3.21 per kg.

On the basis of these figures, the average price has fallen by 9.6 percent year-on-year.

Zimbabwe’s growers are not alone in suffering from lower prices. A story last month in the BBM Bommidala Group newsletter indicated that, with sales almost completed, the average price paid to growers in the Indian state of Karnataka had been 16 percent down on that of the 2013-14 season.

The story said too that prices had fallen by 14 percent in Brazil, 10 percent in Zimbabwe, eight percent in the US and four percent in Tanzania.

It will be interesting to see whether or not these lowered prices are reflected in the prices of cigarettes; rather like lowered oil prices are eventually translated into lower fuel prices at the pumps.

Trademark group joins battle against plain packs

| May 15, 2015

The International Trademark Association (INTA) has joined the legal battle against standardized packaging for tobacco products ‘in order to champion property rights’, according to a Breitbart story.

The INTA says that standardized packaging regulations should be rejected or repealed because, it believes, they violate various international treaties and national laws on trademark protection that safeguard the long-established principle that intellectual property rights are private rights.

Instead, it proposes that ‘less drastic measures’ such as public health campaigns and tax increases should be used as an alternative to the ‘expropriation’ of tobacco trademarks.

The INTA goes further than just defending the private property rights of the trademark owners and aims to show that standardised packaging rules produce unintended consequences detrimental to both competition and the consumers governments intend to protect.

The amicus brief filed by the INTA submits that consumers may become confused and unable to rely on the quality expected of familiar brands, that new brands will be barred from entering the market, that counterfeiting will be simplified, and that the cost of the product will likely decrease as price becomes the only differentiating factor.

JT’s cigarette volume up hugely in April

| May 15, 2015

Japan Tobacco Inc’s domestic cigarette sales volume during April, at 9.2 billion, was up by 37.2 percent on that of April 2014, 6.7 billion, according to preliminary figures issued by the company today. The April 2014 figure was down by 30.2 percent on that of April 2013.

Volume during January-April, at 34.6 billion, was down by 6.6 percent on that of January-April 2014, 37.1 billion, which was increased by 1.8 percent on that of January-April 2013.

JT’s market share stood at 60.4 percent during April, at 60.0 percent during January-April, and 60.4 percent during January-December 2014.

JT’s domestic cigarette revenue during April, at ¥52.1 billion, was increased by 37.4 percent from its April 2014 level, ¥37.9 billion, which was down by 28.5 percent on its revenue of April 2013.

Revenue during January-April, at ¥196.4 billion, was down by 3.9 percent on that of January-April 2014, ¥204.5 billion, which was increased by 2.0 percent on its revenue of January-April 2013.

Lorillard declares quarterly divided

| May 15, 2015

Lorillard has declared a quarterly dividend on its common stock of $0.66 per share. The dividend is payable on June 10 to stockholders of record as of the close of business on June 1.

But the dividend is dependent on whether or not the proposed acquisition of Lorillard by Reynolds American goes ahead.

‘As previously announced, on July 15, 2014, Lorillard and Reynolds American Inc. … entered into a definitive agreement in which Lorillard agreed to be acquired by Reynolds in a cash-and-stock transaction,’ Lorillard said in a note posted on its website.

‘The transaction remains subject to regulatory approval and the additional customary closing conditions contained in the merger agreement.

‘Although no assurance can be given if and when the transaction will be completed because it remains subject to regulatory approval and other customary conditions, the transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2015.

‘If the transaction is completed after the record date, Lorillard will pay the dividend to stockholders as of the record date. If the transaction is completed on or before the record date, the dividend will not be paid.’

Altria to webcast shareholder meeting

| May 15, 2015

The Altria Group is due to host a live audio webcast of its 2015 Annual Meeting of Shareholders starting at 09.00 Eastern Time on May 20.

Directions for the required pre-event registration are at www.altria.com/webcasts.

An archived copy of the webcast, which will be in listen-only mode, will be available on altria.com or through the Altria Investor App. The free app is available for download at www.altria.com/irapp or through the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Minnesota company uses tobacco to fight cancer

| May 14, 2015

A Minnesota-based startup company called MNPHARM plans to use tobacco plants to produce personalized treatments for patients battling cancer.  Founded by Jeff Reinert and Dave Roeser, MNPHARM uses a process that combines technological advances in controlled indoor atmosphere and biochemistry to transform a plant that is frequently associated with causing cancer into one with the potential to produce lifesaving cancer antibodies.

Using proprietary equipment, MNPHARM grows highly transgenic tobacco plants in a controlled indoor environment. Medical professionals then use a biopsy taken from a cancer patient to introduce some of the patient’s DNA to a bacterium, which is injected into the growing plant. Once the plant has been infiltrated with a reagent containing a specific genetic code, it becomes a “factory” that produces antibodies, vaccines and proteins. The antibodies the infiltrated tobacco plant produces make it possible for the plant to fight off the infection. The antibodies are then extracted from the purified tobacco plant and injected back into the patient, helping them to fight their cancer.

MNPHARM’s patented cylinder growing system, called “orbital gardens,” allow the company to produce antibodies and vaccines in tobacco plants in as few as six days—approximately 30 times faster than traditional cancer-fighting methods. Providing cancer patients with rapid access to treatments is part of the company’s goal to replace outdated traditional treatment methods for complex protein production with the faster, safer and less-expensive methods involving transgenic plants.

The company—which is currently in discussions with Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota and the University of California to begin research—has also initiated fundraising efforts in order to ready the business for production of personalized cancer treatments. A funding site on Indiegogo has raised more than $10,000 of the $42,000 needed to complete testing and begin production.