June 22, 2010 - Global economic woes and the worldwide spread of smoking bans are taking their toll on Cuba's famous cigar industry, with the just-completed harvest of the country's finest tobacco down 14 percent over 2009, local media said on Monday, June 21st.
In westernmost Pinar del Rio, home of Cuba's most famous tobacco, the harvest came in at 22.4 million leaves, down from 26 million in 2009, according to Guerrillero, the province's Communist party weekly.
Cuba's premium cigars dominate the world market with 70 percent of sales. That jealously guarded market share excludes the United States, where Cuba's cigars are banned under the 48-year-old U.S. trade embargo against the communist-led island.
Domestic demand for lower-quality cigars, which cost as little as a few cents and are made from tobacco grown elsewhere in the country, showed no sign of slowing.
About 300 million were produced last year, compared with 278 million in 2008, the government said.
Some 200,000 private farmers and family members depend on growing and curing the precious leaf under contract with the government. Tens of thousands of workers earn their living hand rolling the crop into the famous "Habanos" or "Some 200,000 private farmers and family members depend on growing and curing the precious leaf under contract with the government. Tens of thousands of workers earn their living hand rolling the crop into the famous "Habanos" or "Puros" for export."
Reference: Smoking bans and economics hit famed Cuban cigars by Marc Frank (Editing by Jeff Franks and Will Dunham), Reuters, 6/21/2010.
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