According to Xinhua, China National Tobacco Corporation and Cuba’s cigar maker Habanos S.A. signed a letter of intent at the end of July to increase Cuba’s cigar exports to China.
China National Tobacco Corporation General Manager Ling Chengxing and co-presidents of Habanos S.A., Inocente Nunez and Luis Sanchez-Harguindey, signed the document in Havana.
According to the agreement, Habanos S.A. can provide assistance to cigar production in China while expanding its cigar sales in the Asian market.
Earlier this year, Cuba announced a tobacco crop surge that will likely propel cigar production later this year.
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“With the support of the Cuban side and the Chinese side, and the Chinese and Cuban people, I am sure that Cuban tobacco is going to do very well in China,” said Ling, who is also the director-general of the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration, the regulator of China’s tobacco industry.
Cuba, the maker of some of the world’s finest cigars, has a substantial share of cigar and cigarette sales in China, accounting for more than half of sales by volume and some 70 percent of sales by revenue.
Habanos SA, is a joint venture between state-owned Cubatabaco and Altadis, and the French-German affiliate of British multinational firm Imperial Tobacco.
Cuba’s once dominant position in the world’s cigar market (rolled tobacco) diminished in 1962 when the U.S. embargo restricted Cuban imports. Excluded from the single largest cigar market in the world, regional players stepped in to fill the gap left by Cuba’s exclusion. Cuba’s reputation remained in tack (with the exception of a few off years), but its dominance in terms of volume has never recovered.
In February 1992, Wine Spectator magazine published an in-depth cover story, “The Allure of Cuban Cigars.” The strong positive reaction prompted the publisher to launch a cigar-themed magazine, Cigar Aficionado, later in the same year.
The backdrop of the magazine’s launch was a boom in U.S. cigar consumption. Beginning in 1992, imports and sales of premium cigars began to rise dramatically and manufacturers struggled to keep up with demand, leading to industry-wide shortages of raw materials and finished products.
Victor Taveras, director of the National Tobacco Institute (Intabaco), recently announced that the Dominican Republic is the world leader in hand-rolled cigar exports. Cigar exports from the Dominican Republic topped $600 million dollars in 2013. In fact, eleven of the Cigar Aficionado Top 25 Cigars of 2013 were made in the Dominican Republic.