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Cuba’s Top Cigar Maker Smokes Sales Record on Booming High-End Demand

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Cuba’s top cigar maker Habanos said on Monday its sales had soared to a record $721 million in 2023, a benchmark the company’s executives attributed to booming demand for its most luxurious, high-end smokes in markets including China.

Habanos co-president Luis Sanchez-Harguindey said revenues jumped 31% over the previous year as the company pushed promotion of cigars like its Trinidad and Cohiba brands, exclusive smokes once reserved as gifts for foreign diplomats on the communist-run island.

“This is a year of records,” Sanchez-Harguindey told reporters on the sidelines of the company’s annual festival outside the Cuban capital Havana.

Soaring sales came even as Cuban growers struggled to recover from Hurricane Ian in 2022, which flattened infrastructure and ravaged growing areas in a country already suffering its worst economic crisis in decades.

The 2023-2024 growing season, now entering its homestretch, will fall about one-third short of the pre-hurricane planting area, according to Cuban state-run media. It is not expected to return to normal levels for the 2024-2025 season, the local growers’ association said.

“We’ve been able to compensate for that reduction in volume with value,” Sanchez-Harguindey said, adding that Cuban growers had also focused resources on their most efficient, high-end farms.

Cuba’s luxuriously smooth tobacco has long topped the cigar industry, with aficionados touting the Caribbean island’s unique variety of tobacco, rich soils, and ideal climate – as well as Habanos’ insistence on rolling its cigars by hand.

Executives told reporters that China – whose smokers increasingly covet high-end Cuban cigars – once again topped sales in terms of value, followed by Spain, Switzerland, Germany, and Britain.

Habanos S.A. is owned 50% by the Cuban government and 50% by a consortium of Asian investors under the umbrella group Tabacalera.

Habanos plans to keep its entire production process in Cuba, said Sanchez-Harguindey, as per Protected Designation of Origin rules. (Reuters)

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