With Cuba’s cigar industry already in crisis during the coronavirus pandemic, the hurricane could not have struck at a worse time with the tobacco planting season due to begin in October.
The Cuban region worst affected by the tropical storm is where the best tobacco leaves grow and are the backbone of the island nation’s ravaged economy. The winds and rain smashed makeshift wooden constructions where tobacco leaves are left to dry and benefit from the sun, air, and humidity of Cuba.
The winds and rain also eroded the crop fields that were being prepared for planting given that the fields had already been ploughed.
Pilar del Rio produces 65 percent of Cuban tobacco, while Vuelta Abajo is the only region where the three different types of leaves used in the country’s world-famous cigars grow. In San Luis alone, 226 tons of tobacco harvested in August were damaged.
In 2021, Cuba exported $568 million worth of cigars, a 15 percent increase from the previous year, according to Habanos S.A, the manufacturing company that controls the promotion, distribution, and export of cigars.
The state-owned Tabacuba company, which buys 95 percent of private producers’ harvests, was not spared by the hurricane, with many of its warehouses, sorting centers, and offices destroyed. Carpio’s estate is classified as a “Vega fina“, a certification needed to grow the tobacco used in Cuban cigars.
With so much shortage of cigars on UK market, we can only hope for the best.