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Cuba To Boost Cigar Output

January 5, 1999

HAVANA (AP) _ Cuban officials plan to produce 200 million cigars in 1999, double the level of two years earlier, the semi-official newspaper Trabajadores reported Monday.

Cuba produced 160 million cigars in 1998, according to Osvaldo Encarnacion, director of the Union de Empresas de Tobaco, as quoted by the newspaper.

Trabajadores _ the only national newspaper published on Monday _ said the rise in production was aided by increased planting of tobacco in central and eastern Cuba, beyond the tobacco heartland of Pinar del Rio province in western Cuba whose cigar tobacco is generally consider the world’s finest.

The provinces of Villa Clara and Sancti Spiritus in central Cuba combined for 55 million cigars this year, according to the newspaper. It did not give breakdowns for other areas.

Pinar del Rio still produces the tobacco for Cuba’s costly, top-line cigars. Tobacco from other regions is often used for cheaper machine-made cigars or for those sold on the domestic market.

The country now has 43 tobacco factories, up from 17 in 1994, and plans to add 11 more this year, the newspaper said.

Trabajadores is the official newspaper of the Cuban Workers Confederation, which is linked to the Cuban Communist Party.

Though banned in the United States under a decades-old economic embargo, Cuban cigars are highly prized by some smokers.

Gordon Mott, managing editor of Cigar Aficionado magazine, has said most Cuban cigars are smuggled into the country in small quantities by individuals. He estimated between 6 million and 8 million are brought in yearly.

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