The Cuban State Receives 545 Million Dollars for Cigars While the Producers Are Ruined

Miguel Díaz-Canel was satisfied this Monday at the inauguration of the cigar festival, which has 59 Cuban exhibitors linked to that industry. (Cuba Presidency)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, February 28, 2023 — The Festival  of the Cigar was inaugurated this Monday in the Cuban capital with the presence of Miguel Díaz-Canel, who had the peace of mind of  being present at one of the few sectors that can boast good figures in Cuba.

The company, Habanos S.A., took the opportunity to show its 2022 revenues, which improved by 2% over the previous year, and totaled 545 million dollars. At today’s exchange that would be 578 million dollars, ten million more than in 2021. Last year, revenues had already grown by 15% compared to 2020, which shows the good health of a product designed exclusively for the foreign sector.

According to the information offered by the company, Spain, France, Germany, China and Switzerland are Habano’s main buyers and consolidate the European market as the first recipient, with 53.7%. It is followed by the Asia-Pacific region, with 19.3%, America (15.3%) and Africa and the Middle East (11.7%).

“These results are the reflection of the perfect combination between the passion that all of us who make up this wonderful Habano business feel and the strength of our brands, which puts the finishing touch on the unique tobacco that grows in this land and that offers unparalleled moments and experiences to fans around the world,” said its presidents Luis Sánchez-Harguindey Pardo de Vera and Maritza Carrillo González, whose appointment took place just a week ago.

The managers held a press conference on Monday in which they presented all kinds of details about the brands, products and points of sale in the world, which already amount to 4,769, almost 10% more than in 2021. They also commented on the main activities of the fair.

At the inauguration was the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, who explained that there are 250 exhibitors from 10 countries (Italy, Hungary, Spain, Panama, Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada, Ecuador and China) in the 6,458 square feet of the exhibition.

“This trade fair will be an ideal framework for technical and commercial exchanges between companies, suppliers and the public who will be able to have access to the exhibition,” Malmierca said. The minister added that 59 of the 70 stalls at the fair are Cuban and show “the varied offer of our country in the field of crafts, cultural and musical production, fashion, tourism, gastronomy and everything related to cigars.”

But the news was not received with the same enthusiasm by the population. None of the readers of the official press who have commented on the information so far has celebrated the figures, and the vast majority ask that the income be used for the needs of Cubans.

“I would like a percentage of that money to be allocated to the purchase of medicines,” one user asks. “How many everyday problems of ordinary Cubans could be solved with that income?” another continues.

Another reader wonders about the real benefits once the expenses are deducted – “What were the expenses they incurred? That’s what says how profitable it is, economically speaking” – and one more wonders if there are more beneficiaries than the State: “The result is income less expenses. We will have to see what it is and if we don’t have to share part with a foreign partner. It is a ‘Anonymous Company.’ Who is it?”

There are also those who are concerned about the impact on health of tobacco consumption and a user who welcomes with prudent optimism a news that he considers good, but without falling into complacency. “Whatever profits the country is welcome, but don’t forget that we are an underdeveloped country, with a poor economy and also blockaded, and all sectors need oxygen,” he claims.

Among the readers, one points out in disbelief that this is the “more-than-justified moment to compensate tobacco producers in Pinar del Río for their losses in the hurricane.”

Hurricane Ian’s passage in September 2022 devastated 90% of the tobacco warehouses in Pinar del Río, where the leaf is obtained for the prestigious cigars. Tobacco producers told the foreign press that it may take “between eight and ten years” for the province, which produces 65% of the country’s tobacco, to recover.

The Cuban economist residing in Spain, Elías Amor, has analyzed in his blog Cubaeconomía the data and the Festival, which he considers “an event of Castro’s high society, in the most stale style of millionaires and speculators.” The expert points out as a miracle that the tobacco industry has “survived the Revolution” and emphasizes that this demonstrates “what Cuba can and could do in many other areas of trade.”

However, he believes that none of this will benefit the population. “I wish that the exchanges would serve Cuban private companies, guided by the motive of profit and profitability, but the internal blockade of the regime is something else. The worst of all possible things.”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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