HAVANA – Cuba will close out this season’s harvest of tobacco, one of its main export crops, with almost 30,000 tons of leaf and for the 2017-2018 season 29,970 hectares (some 75,000 acres) will be sown with the crop, the state-run Tabacuba business group reported Monday.
The harvest has been progressing in a “favorable” manner given that all the country’s growers have fulfilled their quotas for cropland planted in tobacco, although production has not necessarily been at its absolute maximum, according to Tabacuba agricultural director Gonzalo Rodriguez, as quoted by the state-run Cuban News Agency.
Producers in the Vueltabajo zone, in western Pinar del Rio province, who contribute approximately 70 percent of the national tobacco production, will try to bring in 19,000 tons, said the director during an event for Tobacco Workers Day.
He also said that there is a project under way to foster the planting of tobacco in the island’s eastern and central zones with an eye toward providing some 8,000 tons of leaf for cigarette production in Holguin province.
Rodriguez emphasized the “significant” increase in tobacco cultivation under conditions that filter out the sunlight and retain heat around the plants to allow them to grow larger and produce better leaf, specifically for the world-famous Cuban cigars.
He also said that the harvest is expected to be completed by mid-July and this will allow growers to re-sow the fields early for next season.
Some 24,000 tons were produced during the 2015-2016 tobacco season, according to official figures.
Tabacuba is comprised of 45 companies, including 15 farms, four cigarette manufacturing firms, six service and marketing companies and three mixed companies, among others.
In all, the group oversees 96 tobacco hand-rolling factories, 46 of them devoted exclusively to export production.
Tobacco is the fourth-largest contributor to Cuba’s GDP, providing $445 million to the national treasury in 2016 from the sales of the mixed Cuban-Spanish Habanos company.
Some 200,000 people are employed in the sector on the island, and this figure rises to 250,000 during the peak period of the yearly harvest.