There have been persistent rumors about severe tobacco shortages in the Cuban cigar industry, especially wrappers. Speculation swirled around an extended shutdown of factories at the end of 2014—a normal, annual holiday practice—but in early 2015 it lasted several weeks longer than usual.
Sources in the Cuban cigar industry, who asked not be identified, confirmed this week that due to two poor harvests—the 2012–13 and the 2013–14 cycles—the country was suffering a temporary shortfall in tobacco inventories. The poor harvests had initially been confirmed by a grower in the Vuelta Abajo, who said that the 2013–14 harvest was the worst in 20 years in the prime growing region, and that some farmers did not get a single leaf into their drying barns last year.
The industry source said that the tobacco shortages explained, in part, the delays in some of Habano S.A.'s more prestigious high-end releases, such as the Edición Limitada and Regional Editions programs. But he assured that the situation was getting better as more and more tobacco had completed its aging process and was again available for use in the factories.
The poor harvests also are a probable explanation for the current shortage of Cohiba Behikes in the Havana cigar shops. But the source explained the lack of inventory was largely the result of an extensive reorganization at the El Laguito factory, where all Behikes are currently rolled. The source said that the situation at the factory had led to discussions about moving Behike production to factories in Villa Clara, an area outside of Havana where some of the 46 premium hand-rolled factories in the country are located. But he said that in the end no decision had been made; other sources said that Behike production would remain in Havana.
The source declined to provide more details about what was going on at El Laguito, one of the smaller, but highest-profile factories in Cuba.