Granma International
February 28, 2002

Cigar market picks up

                   • 160-170 million Cuban cigars are planned for this year • Current
                   sales slump is related to demand, not quality or production levels

                   BY JOAQUIN ORAMAS

                   CIGAR production and culture are intertwined at the 4th International
                   Habano Festival, taking place in Havana and attended by around
                   1,000 businesspeople and company representatives from 50

                   Cuba’s Foreign Trade Minister Raúl de la Nuez inaugurated the Habano Trade Fair,
                   with 34 companies from various nations participating. He told Granma
                   International that he was optimistic about recovery on the international market,
                   where Cuban cigars are in great demand.

                   The minister explained that current problems are not related to the quality of
                   Cuban cigars or production levels, but to foreign sales which have been affected by
                   the international situation. However, he stated that this year between 160-170
                   million cigars will be made, depending on demand.

                   Jaime García Andrade, Habanos S.A. corporation co-president, agreed with De la
                   Nuez’ assessment, highlighting the extraordinary success of the event that attracts
                   those in charge of producing, exporting and distributing the best cigar in the world to all
                   the continents.


                   One of the new features that characterizes the Habanos Festival is
                   the exhibition and sale of works by 39 Cuban painters; the central
                   theme of each piece is related to cigars. This showing has awakened
                   great interest — so much so that some of the oil paintings were
                   bought for thousands of dollars in the first hour after the opening.

                   Another notable success was the international research seminar on
                   cultivating and processing tobacco, attended by 75 experts, mainly
                   from Cuba, Mexico and Chile.

                   Of great interest was a likeness of Alejandro Robaina, one of the
                   island’s most famous tobacco growers, made from tobacco leaves.
                   Cuban cigar roller Miguel Cabrera took nine months to complete the
                   life-size model, using photos given to him by the veteran grower.
                   The current festival is dedicated to the 5th anniversary of the brand
                   that carries Robaina’s name.

                   Robaina said he was very pleased at the quality of the original
                   "sculpture," adding that in the near future he would be launching a
                   new Vegas de Robaina, joining this brand’s five types of cigars
                   already successfully sold on the international market.

                   At the opening of the Trade Fair, a ceremony to cancel stamps
                   illustrating the making of Cuban cigars took place. The stamps were
                   designed by French artist Marc J. Pasini, who carried out a
                   comprehensive study of the island’s tobacco industry that, he
                   affirmed, is very closely linked to Cuba’s history.

                   Humidors made in Cuba with the cooperation of Rito, an Italian
                   company, are also on exhibit. Rito’s representative Nieves Varona
                   said they plan to develop cooperative production of pipes and other
                   articles for smokers who enjoy the ritual that goes with savoring the
                   island’s cigars.

                   At the close of this edition, a gala dinner is scheduled, where
                   humidors and collections of the most famous cigar brands are up for