Cuban cigar-maker says overcoming bad weather with better seeds

lunes 29 de febrero de 2016 17:43 GYT

By Daniel Trotta

HAVANA Feb 29 (Reuters) - Cuban cigar monopoly Habanos S.A. has compensated for a series of bad harvests by using genetically improved seeds and the renewal of weather-damaged land in Cuba's western tobacco-growing region, company officials said on Monday.

The weather phenomena El Niño led to Cuba's worst drought in a century in 2015, followed by heavy rain during the northern winter, which is normally a dry period in Cuba.

That has raised concerns among farmers and aficionados that the island's supply of its famous cigars might suffer at a time of increased demand resulting from detente with the United States.

Unusual weather has also affected competitors elsewhere in the Caribbean, said Leopoldo Cintra, commercial vice-president of Habanos. The industry in Cuba has compensated with a "comprehensive plan" including genetically improved seeds that produce tobacco plants more resistant to drought and unseasonable rains.

Cintra also mentioned unspecified technology and the "recovery" of land. Farmers have reported replanting crops wiped out by rain.

Cigar experts say this year's annual harvest, which is coming to an end in March, will be the fourth substandard harvest in a row, a claim Habanos executives did not dispute.

"We think the impact will be minimal," said Javier Terres, vice-president of development, who joined Cintra at a news conference to begin Cuba's annual cigar festival.

"What's more, we think ... there will be a positive recovery in our business," Terres said.   Continuación...