The demand for fine cigars in the United States continues. Imports of premium, handmade cigars were up 5.3 percent for the first four months of this year when compared to the same period in 2021. It’s a small increase, but a notable one given how strong the opening months of 2021 were. Through April, 139.5 million premium cigars were shipped to the United States, compared to 132.5 million for the first four months of last year.
The modern-day cigar boom isn’t over yet.
There are three major countries responsible for producing handmade cigars for the U.S. market: Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Honduras, which account for 99 percent of premium cigar imports. Nicaragua is the leader by far, producing more than half the cigars Americans smoke. Nicaraguan shipments were up considerably in the first four months of the year, increasing by 10.3 percent to 76.8 million units. Dominican shipments rose by 4.1 percent, to 38.8 million. Honduran shipments lagged the two leaders, with a decrease of 6.4 percent, to 23.3 million.
Cigarmakers continue to report strong demand for their cigars, and retailers say that sales remain strong. Last year “was our best year in 20, 25 years, and ’22 started out with increases,” said Craig Cass, who owns several Tinder Box stores in the Carolinas. Looking ahead, Cass saw some signs of a slowdown in May, but said that changed back in June. “May was the first month that we saw decreases, and we thought ‘here it comes,’ ” said Cass. “June snapped back. It makes me pretty bullish on the year.”
While the market is growing, it’s not growing at anywhere near the rate seen in 2021, which saw growth of more than 25 percent and ended with 456 million cigars imported, numbers not seen since 1997.