Cuban cigar exports soar amid demand for luxury goods

Cuban cigar exports soar amid demand for luxury goods

HAVANA, Feb. 27th. International sales of Cuban cigars, the island nation’s most emblematic export, soared 31 percent last year as global demand rises for luxury products, the country’s main tobacco exporter said Monday.

Jorge Perez Martell, commercial vice president of Habanos S.A., said the company had seen a 31 percent increase in turnover in 2023, at the start of the capital’s annual cigar festival.

He said this represented “a turnover of $721 million in 2023.”

“With the end of the pandemic, the luxury market in general and the consumption of premium cigars in particular have seen very strong growth in demand in all regions,” said Jose Maria Lopez Inchaurbe, the company’s vice president in charge of development.

He said that the development of high-end specialized products, and “limited and exclusive editions” were among the main drivers of this growth. The sale is a boon for the Cuban economy, which retracted two percent last year amid its worst crisis in three decades.

Inchaurbe said that in terms of value, China remained the largest global market for cigar exports, followed by Spain, Switzerland, Germany and the United Kingdom.

As a region, Europe is the main market, buying up 56 percent of Cuban cigar exports.

Cuba cannot sell its cigars in North America — the world’s biggest market for the product — due to a trade embargo imposed by Washington on the communist island since 1962.

While western Cuba, the country’s traditional tobacco-producing area, was hit by a powerful hurricane in 2022, the “industry is recovering,” said the co-president of Habanos S.A., Luis Sanchez-Harguindey Pardo de Vera.

Habanos S.A. is a joint venture between the Cuban State and Tabacalera S.L.U, headquartered in Spain.

It is the only enterprise charged with the export of “habanos” cigars.

Long owned by the British group Imperial Brands, Tabacalera has since 2020 belonged to a secretive consortium of Asian investors, known as the Allied Cigar Corporation.

Cuban tobacco, renowned for being among the best in the world, is one of the island’s top export products along with nickel, seafood, vaccines and medical services.