DESPITE the current crisis – and it’s only fair to call it a crisis, despite what those with a vested interest may tell you – in the Cuban cigar world, the rest of the cigarmaking planet continues to make hay while the sun shines.
And boy has the sun shone in recent days.
Driven, as ever, by the market in the US, the sales of New World cigars – those ‘non-Cuban’ or made outside of Cuban production, which is controlled by the state Government – continue to show no sign of abating.
According to the latest numbers, US sales of hand-rolled, long-filler cigars were up more than five per cent in the first four months of this year. Nicaragua continues to be the biggest exporter of premium cigars – it has so far made and dispatched nearly 80 million sticks.
This is the biggest and most sustained ‘cigar boom’ since that which reached a crescendo in the late 1990s. But there are anecdotal signs that this one is slowing, if not coming to a grinding halt or, Heaven forbid, rapidly morphing into a ‘Cigar Bust’.
Although this year’s growth is great, it’s not a patch on last year’s, where nearly 500 million cigars were imported into America. That’s a simply staggering amount. If truth be known, manufacturers could probably do with a bit of a breather to catch up. Their inventories are exhausted; Covid has had a long-term effect on the availability of key workers, such as top-grade rollers; other key components of the cigar process – such as band and box makers – have also been similarly constrained and have been unable to keep up with demand.
Once you add in the worldwide pandemic and lockdowns and the sky-rocketing price of worldwide shipping, you can see that while it has been a great time for the sales of New World cigars, the manufacturers have by no means had it easy.
One world-renowned maker said this week: “It’s been absolutely crazy. We just haven’t had a minute to catch our breath. Every day is firefighting, just trying to get cigars out of the door, fulfil orders, keep all the plates spinning.”
All this means that while New World cigar makers do their best to keep outposts like the UK in smokes, their key market is, always has been and always will be, the United States of America. That’s something to bear in mind.
It’s a tumultuous time in the industry and the ramifications of what is happening now will be felt in the years to come. How it all pans out remains to be seen and it is our opinion that there are many twists and tales yet to be seen.
What is undeniable is there is a tremendous demand for really great cigars and that shows no sign of stopping, despite what some would have you believe. Sautters will continue to use all its contacts and resources to make sure you get ‘em.