Figures from the Cigar Association of America (CAA) indicate that despite the confinement associated with the pandemic that the world experienced in 2020 and 2021, imports of premium cigars from the United States reached record figures those two years.
During the first eight months of 2020, all signs pointed to a serious recession in the tobacco business as, since March, numerous stores in the United States closed or began working with reduced capacities and hours. For their part, many of the factories in Central America (the main supplier of cigars in the US market) had to close temporarily, which brought about an almost total paralysis of supply chains.
However, and to the surprise of many, in September the situation turned around and imports grew even above those of 2019. That month they increased 46% compared to the same month of the previous year and in October and November they continued to increase, although moderately until, in December, the figures soared extraordinarily, reaching a 70% increase compared to December 2019. This meant that at the end of the year, and essentially sustained in the last four months, 361.3 million had been imported of premium cigars to the United States, matching the figures for 2018, a year that was recorded in the cigar industry as the best since 1997.
According to data from the CAA, US imports of handmade cigars increased 25.3% over the previous year and reached the remarkable figure of 456.3 million units.
A brief look at the data from previous years allows us to show that, although in the decade between 2011 and 2021, imports of premium cigars had exceeded 300 million units per year, 2021 was the first year since 1997 with imports above the 400 million units. This means that, beyond all forecasts given the restrictive conditions of the pandemic, 2021 was a record year because it had been 24 years since the 418 million cigars imported in 1997 had not been exceeded.
Without a doubt, Nicaragua has been the leading exporter of premium cigars to the US market since 2017, when it displaced the Dominican Republic from that position. Today it dominates the market with almost 53% of exports. This country sold 186.2 million premium cigars to the United States in 2020 (10% more than in 2019) and 240.9 million in 2021, which represents almost 30% more than in 2020.
For its part, in 2020, the Dominican Republic had a drop of 3.3% compared to cigar exports in 2019, for a total of 102.6 million units of cigars. However, in 2021 the production was recovered and exported 129.5 million handmade cigars, which meant an increase of 22.5%.
The third exporting country was Honduras, with an increase in 2020 of 18.1%, compared to 2019, for a total of 71.2 million units of premium cigars. In 2021 it achieved an increase of 18.3% and reached the figure of 84.2 million units.Although many may be shocked by the figures of these last two years of confinement, some connoisseurs explain them by the fact that many cigar smokers began to work from home, which favored consumption. Of course, with many stores closing, much of the increase came from sales online or catalog sales. A situation with a tendency to remain in the coming