Hurricanes devastate Cuba's tobacco industry

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Count Silvio
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Sat Sep 20, 2008 12:58 pm

Cuba suffered $5 billion in damage from back-to-back storms, and tobacco -- one of the few crops that can earn the cash the country needs to bounce back -- was hit hard.

SAN JUAN y MARTINEZ, Cuba -- Alejandro González spends his days touting the intricate craft of tobacco growing to tourists here on the western reaches of the island that produces the world's premier cigars.

But when Hurricane Ike blew through Cuba eight days after Hurricane Gustav's pass, Gonzalez, 35, a tobacco engineer/plantation guide at the Hoyo de Monterrey cooperative, joined an intense effort to move delicate tobacco leaves from their drying barns to stronger buildings in hopes of shielding them from the storm's fury.

Even so, more than half the crop was lost, González says. More than 3,000 tobacco leaf drying sheds and 8,600 homes for tobacco workers in the region, which lies about 112 miles southwest of Havana, also were destroyed.

''It was very, very bad,'' he said in halting English.

According to the daily newspaper Granma, Gustav alone destroyed 3,414 curing barns and damaged another 1,590. In a blow to one of Cuba's top exports, more than 800 tons of tobacco products were damaged by Gustav. The hardest hit city was Consolación del Sur, where 1,836 of the existing 1,857 curing barns were destroyed.

The Cuban government estimates losses from the two storms at $5 billion. As the island struggles to rebuild, one of the few crops that can earn the hard currency it needs to bounce back has sustained damages that experts say could linger for years to come. Cuba made $402 million from tobacco in 2007.

It is possible that the scarcity of Cuban tobacco will pump up prices.
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Count Silvio
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Mon Sep 22, 2008 12:02 pm

If the prices of cuban tobacco rises much not all is lost since Nicaragua and Honduras in my opinion make very good cigars that one might puff while waiting while the prices for cubans decrease again.
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