HAVANA (AP) — Cuba’s annual cigar trade fair started Monday, bringing thousands of buyers and aficionados of the island’s iconic stogies to sample the latest wares and place orders for sale oversees.
According to Habanos SA officials, Cuba sold $531 million worth of cigars worldwide in 2019, a 10% increase over the previous year. They say the company expects sales to continue increases at that pace for 2020.
Cigars are a main component of Cuba’s tobacco exports, and officials at Tabacuba (Tobacco Business Group of Cuba), the government entity responsible for all tobacco production on the island, say they see strong demand for hand-rolled and machine-made cigars in 2020.
Asia, the Middle East and Europe are the biggest markets for Cuban cigars, with more than 10% growth registering in each market over the last year.
Experts believe Cuban cigars could fetch as much as $250 million a year in the U.S. market alone, but the American trade embargo prohibits such sales.
Bumper crops of tobacco and increased production of cigars bring in much-needed hard currency to Cuba’s cash-strapped government, helping it pay creditors for food imports and other goods not produced on the island.