Classification is the awarding of grades to various cured tobacco leaves based on how they would have been graded at the farm.
Classification takes into account three to five factors, namely the plant position, quality, colour, style factor and extra factor. The Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board grade mark inscribed on the bale ticket is a combination of these factors.
Symbols are used to come up with a grade mark. L2O is an example of a grade mark as inscribed on the bale ticket by TIMB classifiers meaning it is from the leaf part of the plant, second grade and an orange style.
First Factor – Plant position
It represents the first symbol of the grade mark and describes the position on the tobacco plant from where the leaves are found.
There are five major plant positions that is,primings, lugs, cutters, leaf and tips. Leaves from the upper part of the plant fetch higher prices if they do not have other undesirable characteristics.
Second Factor – Quality
Quality or finish is the term used to describe the degree of blemish and amount of waste or injury on a cured leaf.
It represents the second symbol (a numerical value) on the grade mark and ranges from 1 up to 5.
Good to very good tobacco fall in 1 and 2, tobacco of fair quality is in category 3 whilst poor to very poor quality tobacco is in categories 4 and 5.
Third Factor – Colour
It is the third symbol of the grade mark and refers to the basic colour of the cured leaf.
There are basically five colour categories which are, Pale lemon (E), Lemon (L), Orange (O), Light Mahogany (R) and Dark Mahogany (S). Orange and Mahogany are dark colours and contain high nicotine levels.
Fourth Factor – Style Factor
It describes textural differences and related degrees of maturity due to weather effects and agronomic cultural practices.
Ripe/Soft (F) style tobacco is fullycoloured, open – grained, ripe and soft natured. Close grained, slick or slatey style (K & U) refers to tobacco, which is close grained and immature, having a smooth to flat surface and a relatively pale or dull colour becoming distinctly grey in the middle to lower qualities.
The symbol “U” is used for predominantly slatey grey tobacco. The ripe (F) is a desirable factor and tends to fetch higher prices as compared to undesirable close-grained style and slatey (K& U).
Fifth Factor – Extra factor
It describes certain effects of weather, curing or cultural practices. Below are some of the extra factors;
This spot is normally associated with tobacco grown in fast ripening areas and it occurs on the leaf as a small brownish blotch with an off-white centre.
Harsh natured or sun baked (D)
It refers to tobacco that is harsh natured and lifeless due to lack of oil caused by dry weather conditions.
This is tobacco showing a noticeable degree of red caused principally by raising barn temperatures before the removal of excess moisture in the leaf.
It is tobacco which has a greenish tinge or cast to it which is normally referred to as running green as the green cast may disappear after further maturity.
It is tobacco which contains a hard set green appearance on the leaf surface.
All the extra factors above are undesirable except for spotted (A) tobacco and in some cases greenish (V) tobacco.
Tobacco that does not contain style and extra factors is normally referred to as standard tobacco.
The grade mark for such type of tobacco contains only 3 symbols which are, plant position, quality and colour.