Shortage in Cuba hits cigar production

Cuba’s Vuelta Abajo tobacco region struggles after hurricane Ian

HAVANA, Feb. 25th Since his great-grandfather began to cultivate tobacco leaves in the fields of Viñales, Yurisniel Cabrera,

his father and grandfather have followed this tradition so that Cuba can produce its emblematic cigars, but this year the harvest will decrease due to a lack of fertilizers.

Next to his father and uncle, this 35-year-old peasant cuts the tobacco leaf at the foot of a mogote, one of the magical rock formations that look like mountains and that abound in Viñales, in the western end of Cuba.

After months of preparing the land, planting it and starting to harvest, Yurisniel warns that this year the quality of the crop will not be as good and the volume of sales will decrease.

“It could not be removed because there was a lack of fertilizer and pesticide for insects.” The leaf “is not of sufficient quality,” she says, skilfully sliding a row of leaves from her arm onto a cuje, as they call the wooden rod used to dry tobacco.

The leaves are hung on cujes stored one above the other in the tobacco house, a rustic wooden construction located with a precise orientation so that the drying is aided by the sun, the air and the humidity.

Like most farmers in Pinar del Río, where 65% of Cuba’s tobacco is produced, Yurisniel’s family sells 95% of its production to a state company. The remaining 5% is for self-consumption.

– Guava, honey and rum –

Curing the dried leaves to roll the family’s cigars is quite a ritual.

“We take guava leaves, honey, rum and the tobacco vein, we put it in water in a stew,” and then dip the dried tobacco in that infusion and store it in packages for six months before it is ready for smokers, he says. revealing your recipe.

The cigar is a luxury item. A cigar smoked in an hour can cost more than 10 dollars.

For the season that began last October and ends in May, this family planted 25,000 tobacco plants, however, Yurisniel confesses that at most he will be able to collect 12 quintals (552 kilograms) of tobacco leaf, well below the 20 of the last year.

The state company Tabacuba, which buys the entire harvest in the country, will determine the price according to the quality of the leaf, he explains without great expectations.