Cuba To Deliver Cigars Even After Devastating Hurricanes
Cohibas and Monte Cristos safe, but companies say they need capital infusions
HAVANA -- Cuba's tobacco industry will fulfill all "commitments" for the remainder of this year and 2009 on both the domestic and international markets despite the damage from the hurricanes that ravaged the island, the official press reported, citing high-level officials.
"All the commitments made for exports, domestic consumption and the cigar industry in what is left of this year and 2009 will be fulfilled," Osvaldo Encarnacion, vice president of state-owned TABACUBA, told the official daily Granma.
The tobacco industry official said Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, which hit the island in late summer and caused $8.65 billion in damage, arrived before the 2008-2009 season had started, so "the losses in agriculture were minimal."
Hurricane Ike, which battered the island Sept. 7-9, and Gustav, which hit western Cuba on Aug. 30, wiped out hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland, damaged or destroyed 500,000 dwellings and caused extensive damage to infrastructure.
After Hurricane Paloma made landfall earlier this month near Santa Cruz del Sur, a port town of some 10,000 in Camaguey province, the government raised the damage estimate from the storms to $8.6 billion.
In Pinar del Rio, which accounts for 70 percent of Cuba's tobacco production, the storms destroyed 4,150 of the 5,000 curing sheds lost across the island.
Encarnacion said more than 2,000 curing sheds were "at different stages of construction," with 1,640 completed, and planting started in October.
Tobacco is one of Cuba's main exports, along with nickel, sugar and medicines.
Corporacion Habanos S.A., a joint venture between the Cuban government and Imperial Tobacco Group PLC's Altadis subsidiary, said in September that it would not have any problems supplying its famous cigars in 2009.
The company, however, said it would need a "large financial infusion."
Source: Latin American Herald Tribune