Sancti Spíritus tobacco producers say “It is no longer profitable”

Sancti Spíritus tobacco producers say “It is no longer profitable”

HAVANA, March 23th. Tabac farmers of Sancti Spíritus, the second province of Cuba with the highest tobacco production, only behind Pinar del Río, planted less than half of the planned area because the payment for their production by the state monopoly Tabacuba is not sufficiently profitable enough for them.

As reported by the official Escambray newspaper, the 2023-2024 campaign closed sowing in that province with 49% of the planned area, a decrease that impacted above all the sun on stick modality.

The local media report attributed this decrease to “the fuel setbacks for land preparation” and to the fact that “many producers did not plant because the crop is not profitable.”

According to Isidro Hernández Toledo, agricultural director of the Sancti Spíritus Tobacco Collection and Processing Company, of a plan of 1,600 hectares to be planted, only 776 were planted until February. Of these, 290 hectares are covered tobacco, 30 more than those planned; but in the form of tobacco from sun en palo, of the 1,340 hectares registered, only 486 were planted.

This, the official admitted, “will have a negative impact on the final results of the campaign.” The decline already occurred in the previous year’s harvest and was due to “the same reasons,” Escambray acknowledged.

“This resulted in a high number of producers not planting tobacco,” commented Hernández Toledo.

The report states that “evidently, the incentives introduced by the Tabacuba Group at the beginning of the campaign to stimulate planting in the sun-on-stick mode did not yield the expected results.” This, in reference to the payment in dollars from the state monopoly to the vegueros for their production, which often takes a while to reach the farmers’ bank accounts.

“Many producers did not see that as something stimulating and stopped planting. The contracting process for the next campaign has not yet begun, because they are waiting for an economic increase for that crop, which will be informed, and we hope that it will become to recover tobacco production in the province, specifically that modality,” the official wished.

The situation in Sancti Spíritus is similar to that experienced by Pinar del Río. The official press acknowledged that only 7,700 of the 12,905 hectares of tobacco planned for the current harvest in Pinar del Río had been planted as of last February, which is why the provincial authorities decided to readjust their production forecast downwards.

The main reason for the adjustment in that territory, according to the official version, is the lack of enough curing (or drying) houses for the leaf. Tabacuba indicated that, of those structures damaged by Hurricane Ian in September 2022, only a fraction insufficient for the expected crop has been recovered.

The meteor, which crossed over some of the territories that produce the best tobacco leaf in Cuba, damaged about 10,000 of the 12,000 natural cure houses in Pinar del Río. Of them, 4,776 have been rebuilt to date, and there are 620 in the completion phase.

Tabacuba recognized that the recovery of the tobacco infrastructure will take at least two years, so for the 2024-2025 harvest the forecast is to reach 14,000 hectares, still below what was planted before Ian.

According to official figures, the state monopoly Habanos S.A. reported in 2022, before Ian’s scourge, income of 545 million dollars, an increase of just 2% compared to the previous year and evidence of the fall in production of the traditional crop, something that neighboring countries, such as the Republic, are taking advantage of. Dominican. In 2023, that number reached 721 million.

Despite official aspirations, estimates made in 2023 indicated that the damage caused by Ian in Pinar del Río would mean “between eight and ten years” of recovery for the province, which produces 65% of the country’s tobacco, to return to its state as usual.