The US premium cigar import market was led for more than three decades by the Dominican Republic, but, according to figures from the Cigar Association of America (CAA), that situation changed five years ago.
Indeed, in 2016 Nicaraguan cigars began to lead the ranking of purchases in the US, displacing the Caribbean country from the first place. That year, almost 42% of the 322.3 million cigars imported by the United States corresponded to Nicaraguan cigars, leaving the Dominican Republic with less than 36% of the market.
In 2017 the proportion rose to 45% and the following two years continued to increase until, in 2020, according to available figures, it reached almost 52% of the 360 ??million premium cigars that the United States bought; the remaining 48% of the market was divided between the Dominican Republic with 28% and Honduras with 20%.
In summary, from 2016 to the present, the US market went from buying 42% of Nicaraguan premium cigars to 52%; clear evidence of how leadership changed hands.
How did this change come about?
Obviously, this new leadership is based on the very high quality of the premium cigars that are being produced in Nicaragua, a country that by the year 2000 was not among the three main producers of cigars in the world. Quality that is based, without doubt, on the availability of a soil very rich in nutrients and minerals, typical of its volcanic orography and full of lakes, and in its condition of a tropical country, with a lot of sunlight and climatic stability in terms of temperature and rainfall.
But beyond these conditions, there has been the determination of Nicaraguan producers to improve the infrastructure, technology and knowledge of the tobacco companies. The main motivation for the large investments made over several years has been to achieve a technological development that allows them to grow a leaf with a flavor, aroma and complexity superior to that of any other leaf in the world.
A clear example of the quality of Nicaraguan cigars is that for at least five years they have been appearing in the Top 25 of some specialized publications such as Cigar Aficionado and Cigar Journal, even reaching number one on some occasions.
An element of vital importance in the growing popularity of Nicaraguan cigars has to do with an extraordinary quality-price ratio, a product of the large number of existing companies in that country and the strong competition between them. Currently, about 40,000 Nicaraguan families live directly from tobacco, to which are added some 200,000 who live from the complementary industry. They are grouped into just over 60 companies that are dedicated to the production of premium cigars, of which only 25 represent 95% of exports.
Beyond the fact that the different areas where the leaves are grown give them different flavors and aromas, the Nicaraguan cigar is highly valued by experts because "it has character in flavor, strength and body", in addition to its characteristic spicy notes that give it a special sweetness.
Although for now, the US market is its major buyer, Nicaragua exports tobacco to 96 countries around the world and has proposed to continue growing in quantity and quality in order to enter the European and Asian markets with greater impetus. It seems to have the necessary quality to achieve it.