Cuba curbs tobacco harvest as cigar sales fall

Headshot portrait of Cuban premier Fidel Castro lighting a cigar, New York City, 1959
Image caption Even Fidel Castro has given up cigars for health reasons

Cuba has been forced to cut its tobacco harvest in response to a fall in demand for its famous Cuban cigars.

This year's harvest of tobacco leaves is down 14% on last year, according to one of the country's state-run newspapers, Guerrillero.

"There was a reduction in planting due to limitations on resources caused by the economic crisis," the report said.

Sales of Cuban cigars fell by 8% last year, while production has fallen even further.

Falling sales have pushed down production by even more. Last year, Cuba produced 73 million cigars for export.

That compares with the 217 million made in 2006.

But part of that reduction comes as Habanos, the company that produces and sells the cigars, runs down its stockpiles.

The hand-rolled cigars are a major export for the Caribbean island, although they are limited by a long-running US trade embargo.

Spain is the single biggest export market, where the recent introduction of a smoking ban has hit consumption.

Falling airline passenger numbers has also hit duty-free sales.

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