CUBA’S PINAR DEL RÍO TOBACCO CROP “SMALLEST IN HISTORY”

PINAR DEL RÍO TABACCO CROP “SMALLEST IN HISTORY”

HAVANA, March 25th Pinar del Río—Cuba’s main tobacco growing region—is on track for its smallest crop in history.The news is not surprising given last September Pinar del Río suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Ian. The hurricane arrived just weeks before Cuba’s next crop was ready to be planted, meaning it didn’t impact any tobacco in the ground in September.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean Ian didn’t impact the growing season.

With winds exceeding more than 125 mph, Ian knocked out an estimated 90 percent of the curing barns in Pinar del Río, an area responsible for roughly two-thirds of Cuba’s total tobacco production.

Beyond the curing barns, Ian destoryed more than 30,000 tons of harvested tobacco. But now the more lasting impacts are starting to take shape.

According to Granma, Cuba’s state-run and most-read newspaper, with less than a week to go, Cuban farmers have planted just 5,150 hectares of tobacco in Pinar del Río compared to 11,200 hectares in 2022. A hectare is 100m x 100m, about 2.5x that of an acre.

This is despite the growing season being extended by 50 days to give farmers more time to rebuild and recoup following Ian. The massive reduction is due to a number of factors: there are still more than 1,000 curing barns that need to be rebuilt, many farmers have pivoted to growing other crops, emigration from Cuba, fertilizer shortages, etc.

Regardless, the massive decrease in planting led Granma to describe this year’s crop as “la más pequeña de la historia de Pinar del Río,” the smallest in the history of Pinar del Río.

This comes at a time when Cuban cigars are already in extreme shortage—there are staffing issues at the country’s large factories in Havana—and record-high prices continue to go up.