Habano cigars secure markets despite COVID-19 impact
Luis Chirino

Fine tobacco leaves cultivated in Cuba are the source of Habano premium cigars including the flagship and popular brand Cohiba, whose 55th anniversary was marked during a virtual event this week called Habanos World Days, attended by hundreds of cigar lovers. 

The exports and domestic sales of Habano cigars constitute a major source of revenues for Cuban economy. The sector took a hit over the past year due to COVID-19, but industry leaders and distributors remain hopeful about the future.

Executives with Habanos S.A., the company marketing Cuban cigars at the world market, announced during the virtual forum that China is now the Number One market for Habano cigars, overtaking Spain.

However, COVID-19 still left its mark in 2020 after Habanos S.A. reported revenues calculated at $507 million dollars, down four %. And with no tourists amidst the pandemic domestic cigars sales on the island’s cigar shops have dried up.

The sales of cigars in Cuba go hand in hand with the commercialization and auction of nice humidors crucial for the preservation of the cigars. These boxes are made in different shapes and painted in solid colors. 

Angel Miranda is a private humidor designer and maker who has produced humidors for years but covered with paintings by respected Cuban visual artists. Usually, Miranda and the artists develop unique series of humidors which are commercialized at local Habano cigar shops and later travel around the world including China. 

“Our design and the artistic touch gave way to a unique product uncommon to the humidor market because we are the only ones who make it this way,” Miranda said. 

For artists involved in the project like Adalberto Arteaga the initiative has been interesting and challenging. “This is like painting on a 3D format, not the usual flat canvas, so all sides here must coincide, this actually was a challenge."

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a paralysis of tourism and with it the lack of clients of humidors and cigars at Cuba’s Habano cigar shops, which had a direct impact on Miranda’s project.

“COVID has affected our business 100%, zero sales, zero production, a full stop We have used this time to think of new projects for the future, when the pandemic ends,” Miranda said.

In the meantime, the humidor maker and his team devote his time to promoting visual arts on social media, confident that once the pandemic is controlled, his distinctive humidors will again carry bundles of Habanos cigars in their drawers, around Cuba and the world.

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