July 16, 2001

Cuba may produce record cigar output

                 HAVANA, Cuba (Reuters) -- Cuba has produced 80 million of its
                 world-famous Havana cigars for export in the first half of this year and is
                 on target for record output of 170 million for the whole year, the
                 Caribbean island's state tobacco group said Monday.

                 Tabacuba head Oscar Basulto told state media the 80 million output in the first
                 six months was Cuba's largest half-year production and predicted output would
                 gain further pace in the second half to reach the official annual target of 170

                 Last year, Cuba produced 117 million cigars for export, and the previous record
                 was 148 million in 1999. Industry sources attributed this year's improved
                 performance to better weather conditions and an internal reorganization of the

                 Cigars and tobacco leaf are Cuba's third export earner after sugar and nickel,
                 garnering $280 million in 1999 and around $150 million in 2000.

                 Spain is Cuba's largest cigar market, accounting for more than 38 percent of
                 exports last year, followed by France at 14 percent and sales to tourists visiting
                 Cuba, which are included in the export category, at more than 7 percent.

                   Copyright 2001 Reuters.