Farmers could fend off tobacco produced in countries where the labor was cheaper, or the climate so hot year round that two crops were possible.But one potential petitive advantage North Carolina farmers have for any e-cigarette es from good luck: Avoca, a large botanical extraction pany, is located in Bertie County near Edenton, not far from many of the state’s top tobacco-producing counties.
There, it mainly has been extracting a fixative from a type of sage that helps scents last longer in perfumes and things such as laundry products. Farmers are now growing thousands of acres of the purple-flowered clary sage in the area.
Last fall, Richmond, Va.-based Universal Leaf, the top vendor of leaf tobacco in the world, and Avoca announced a joint venture called AmeriNic that’s already extracting nicotine from tobacco and is planning to begin mercial sales this year, pany leaders said in an emailed response to questions.
The partners believe it to be the only operation in the country that extracts and purifies nicotine, an addictive stimulant in tobacco and a crucial ingredient in most e-cigarette “juice.”Farmers are watching the venture closely.
“We think there is an opportunity, and we want to be the ones to fill that need,” said Graham Boyd, executive vice president of the Tobacco Growers Association of North Carolina.
In its response to questions, Universal Leaf declined to say where it plans to get its tobacco for extraction but said that its efforts to breed plants specifically for nicotine production were being done here, at least in part.”At this time, we are evaluating various sourcing options,” the pany said. “Given our long history of purchasing quality tobaccos in North Carolina, we have included farms in the state as part of our R&D effort.”
Dr. Loren Fisher, an associate professor of crop science and extension tobacco specialist at NCSU, said one advantage that North Carolina has in trying to reap some benefit from e-cigarettes is its centuries of hard-won knowledge about breeding and growing tobacco. He thinks it will be relatively easy to develop plants that are efficient little green factories for producing large amounts of nicotine, as opposed to the current goals of taste and the quality of the leaves.