Cuba’s Cigar Industry took a Huge Hit from Hurricane Ian

A tobacco curing house completely collapsed in San Juan y Martínez. (Cubadebate)

By 14ymedio / EFE

HAVANA TIMES – Hurricane Ian has been a “demolishing blow” for Cuba’s most select tobacco cultivation, the official press reported, with major material damage and the loss of thousands of tons of raw material.

Hurricane Ian — a category three storm with heavy rains and winds of up to 125 miles per hour — caused massive damage, “both in tons and in the quality of a crop that contributes hundreds of millions of dollars for export every year,” according to the official newspaper Granma.

The digital media Cubadebate also reported on the destruction of much of the infrastructure of the tobacco sector in Pinar del Río, the province where a large part of Cuban tobacco is grown and where the raw material of the most sought-after cigars comes from.

The Pinar del Río Agriculture delegate, Víctor Fidel Hernández, told Granma that “it’s the biggest blow that the tobacco infrastructure has suffered in its history.”

In the country’s main tobacco-producing region, 90% of the approximately 12,000 rustic curing houses, where tobacco leaves are stored for drying, have been damaged.

The storm also dampened “around 11,000 tons of tobacco” that was in the process of drying, and much of it will have to be discarded.

This blow to the sector comes at an already delicate time for the Cuban tobacco sector. The Cuban state tobacco company produced less than half of what was planned from January to June, due to lack of basic inputs, logistical problems and breakdowns, among other problems.

The situation, a continuation of the one experienced in 2021, has caused “instability” in the “distribution in the retail sales network” of tobacco within Cuba, Granma acknowledged this August.

Tobacco, which employs about 200,000 workers — 250,000 at the peak of the harvest — is one of the largest sources of income for Cuba.

Production decreased from 32,000 tons in 2017 to 25,800 in 2020, according to official data; 2021 was one of the worst years for the Cuban countryside in the last decade, as the Minister of Agriculture, Ydael Perez Brito, recently said.

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

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3 thoughts on “Cuba’s Cigar Industry took a Huge Hit from Hurricane Ian

  • As an avid cigar smoker, the impact on the availability of quality cigars will hardly be noticed. Cigar aficionados have long held that while high quality Cuban cigars are widely respected around the world, there are many other countries producing award-winning cigars. Any drop-off of Cuban cigars on the world market will easily be made up by other manufacturers. That said, cigar smokers like myself certainly have our favorite smokes. Those consumers who favor Cuban cigars will be willing to pay higher prices for their cigars but only up to a point. If reduced supply of Cuban cigars forces the prices too high, smokers will buy other brands. Lost market share is a death knell to the cigar industry. Even once Pinar del Rio recovers, the damage will have been done. The damage done by Ian is worse than damaged tobacco plants. The harm done to market share is nearly impossible to overcome.

  • Robert
    This will not happen as the government cannot line their fat pockets by growing food for the people they disregard, tobacco crop lines their pockets and has done for years.

  • OK, how about using this land and labour for growing food to feed Cubans?

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