Imports of premium, handmade cigars continue to be robust. In September, the latest month reported by the Cigar Association of America, imports were up 21.3 percent over September 2017. Year-to-date imports are up 11.1 percent, with 263.7 million handmade cigars imported for the first nine months of the year.
This strong start for 2018 comes on the heels of a particularly strong 2017, when handmade cigar shipments reached 330 million units, the most in 19 years. The industry seems poised to mark its seventh consecutive year with imports of 300 million or more.
Leading the way once again is Nicaragua, a country that just isn’t slowing. Despite some unrest in the country, Nicaragua shipped 14.3 million premium cigars in September, up 27.7 percent from the 11.2 million shipped in the same period of 2017. So far this year Nicaragua has shipped 126.7 million cigars to the United States.
Dominican cigar shipments also grew at a blistering pace—up 23 percent, from 9.1 million cigars in September 2017 to 11.2 million. The country has shipped 86.4 million cigars so far in 2018. Honduran shipments rose, too, albeit by only 6 percent, growing from 4.9 million to 5.2 million handmade smokes. For the first three quarters of 2018, Honduras shipped 49.5 million premium, handmade cigars.
The big three producers—Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and Honduras—account for more than 99 percent of premium, handmade cigar exports.
There are three more months of reporting to account for, so it’s far too early to tell, but should this 11.1 percent rate of growth be maintained in the final quarter of the year, handmade cigar imports will reach 366 million units.