Cigar Aficionado

Cuba Hurricane Damage: $5 Billion

The back-to-back hurricanes that struck Cuba this month caused an estimated $5 billion in damages. More than 200,000 Cubans have been left homeless by the storms, which the Cuban government has called the most destructive to ever hit the island.

No deaths were reported from the first storm, Hurricane Gustav, while seven perished as a result of Hurricane Ike.

The two storms caused damage throughout Cuba. "Not a single province escaped their threat and impact," said a September 16 article in Granma, the daily newspaper of the Cuban government, calling the storms "unquestionably . . . the most destructive in the history of these meteorological phenomena in Cuba with respect to the magnitude of the material damage caused."

The Cuban tobacco industry suffered tremendous damage in both storms. previously reported on the estimated 3,500 curing barns lost or damaged in Gustav. Yesterday's report in Granma elaborated on the damage, saying that 3,414 tobacco "storage facilities" were destroyed and 1,590 were damaged. Perhaps more troubling was that 800 tons of tobacco was affected. This would be harvested cigar tobacco that was exposed to the elements by damage to the buildings in which they were being stored. According to sources in Cuba, wrapper tobacco—the most delicate and expensive type of tobacco used in cigar production—was not affected.

Several news reports have suggested that the storms damaged tobacco crops in the ground, but that is not the case. Tobacco isn't grown during hurricane season. Still, the damage to the barns could cause problems with the coming harvest, as tobacco needs to be hung in a casa de tobacco, or curing barn, immediately after harvesting for it to properly cure. And the damage to the 800 tons of harvested tobacco could cause shortages in future cigar production.

According to Cuban sources, Havana was spared extensive damage from the storms, and the cigar factories were intact.

Click here for more detail on Hurricane Gustav's impact on Cuba, and click here to read about Hurricane Ike as it made landfall.