America's thirst for fine Cuban cigars kept 2009 from becoming an even more difficult year for the island's most famous export product, despite the downturn in the U.S. economy and tightening of borders between Mexico and Canada.
Last year, exports of Cuban cigars dropped to $360 million, down 7.7 percent from $390 million in 2008, and down considerably from the $402 million exported in 2007, according to Manuel Garcia, the marketing vice president of Habanos S.A., the global distribution and marketing organization for Cuban cigars. Garcia released the figures last week during a speech on the state of the Habanos market at the 2009 12th Festival Habano, the annual cigar festival on the island.
However, sources in the Cuban cigar business say clandestine sales to the United States have lessened the downward trend in exports. Estimates of annual Cuban cigar sales in the United States, where Cuban cigars are illegal, hover around 20 million units per year, although some believe it could be as much as one-third of the total sales in a given year.
For the complete story, see the March 9 Cigar Insider.