The effects of Hurricane Ian passing through the province of Pinar del Río, Cuba’s main tobacco area, have been described as more severe than ever, but some remember that in 2002, when similar meteorological events also occurred, they could become to build all the tobacco curing houses in just over three months.
On this occasion, the seedlings had not yet been transferred to the rows of the plantations, so some experts predict that in 2023 there will be a tobacco harvest, although it could be somewhat delayed.
Nearly all of Pinar del Rio’s tobacco infrastructure, including drying houses, were flattened by Ian a few days before the October planting season. There were people like Victoriano Maqueira, a farmer in the area, who saw how the hurricane destroyed large barns used for drying their crops and destroyed dogs, chickens and even the roofs of their homes.
Sorting, stemming and storage facilities also suffered damage, despite having more solid walls. The delegate of the Ministry of Agriculture in the province, Víctor Fidel Fernández, described it as the biggest blow to the tobacco infrastructure in its history.
The general director of the Tabacuba company, Marino Murillo, informed in a meeting with producers from the territory and government leaders that it would take 161,000 cubic meters of wood, some 2 million square meters of zinc tiles and 600 tons of nails to return to rebuild damaged houses.
However, and thanks to the solidarity work of some cigar rollers from the Havana cigar factories who have moved to the westernmost province of the island, they intend to rebuild in a short time more than six thousand curing houses for the next harvest, especially in the municipalities where the highest quality production is concentrated, such as those destined for covered tobacco or first class fine vegas.
In addition, some growers say that some 11,000 tons of tobacco could be recovered that the torrential rains of the hurricane had moistened, since when Ian left, the producers began to air those leaves.
According to industry sources, the preventive actions taken by the growers before Ian arrived saved 650 tons of covered tobacco, the highest quality; and, judging by businessmen and producers, the wrapper tobacco reserved for the production of 50 million cigars destined for export in the next semester did not suffer major damage.