It’s an exciting time for tobacco. The leaves that will ultimately make your cigars are now entering all phases of the process, from being planted in the fields to curing in the barns and even entering fermentation. We polled the industry’s top experts and sent our team members into the field (literally) for this year’s annual crop report. The findings evoke equal amounts of optimism and concern, depending on the growing region and country. Will some of your favorite cigars be in short supply next year? Find the answers with this quick and user friendly summary!
Nicaragua: Arguably one of the most popular places in the world to grow tobacco right now, Nicaragua is having an excellent crop year. The rainy season lasted longer than was hoped for in 2013, which created a lot of anxiety in the early stages of planting, but which panned out very well for each of the four central growing regions in Nicaragua. According to Nestor Plasencia Jr., the largest grower of Cuban-seed tobacco in the world, “This year’s crop will have the heavy and rich flavor that Nicaragua is known for.” In referencing this, Nestor is speaking of the thick and luscious texture of the leaves on the plant.
Honduras: Honduran tobacco is a longtime favorite for cigar aficionados who prefer very rich and robust Cuban-seed tobaccos. Of all the regions worldwide, Honduran tobacco appears to have fared the best with an absolute banner year this year. Excellent climate conditions have contributed to the highest yields in recent history, and according to Nestor Plasencia Jr., “This year we have had the highest percentage yield of Sun Grown wrapper grade leaf that we have ever had!”
United States: It’s no secret that temperatures in the US have been unseasonably cold, and broadleaf from Pennsylvania and Connecticut were negatively impacted. While the total yield amounts were roughly consistent, the overall quality impacted the amount of wrapper grade tobacco during selection. In fact, some farmers are reporting that wrapper yields were half of what they were last season. That being said, it isn’t all bad news. According to AJ Fernandez, who grows nearly 200 acres in Pennsylvania, “While the wrapper yields were lower, the quality of the wrapper is some of the best I have seen!” Don’t worry, Diesel fans, because AJ also assured me that he has a two year supply on hand from previous crops. In other words, don’t expect to see your prized Unholy Cocktails dry up in 2015.
Ecuador: To get the info on Ecuador, we went right to the source and spoke with John Oliva Jr., whose family has been growing the most prized Habano and Sumatra wrapper in the world. According to John, “Despite some initial adversity, we have rated our Ecuador tobacco for the crop year 2013 as very good to excellent.” A hot and dry climate provided farmers throughout Ecuador an opportunity to carefully control water disbursement through irrigation, but also brought with it varying cloud cover, which the region depends on for natural shade. Additionally, higher levels of volcanic activity proved challenging, but the resulting crops provided some of the best color phases seen from Ecuador in many years despite thinner leaf textures. On a side note, John made sure to mention that some new experimental crops including Corojo ‘99 and Cameroon Ecuador showed great promise and will be destined for some interesting new blends in the years to come.
Dominican: The 2013 season in the Dominican was drier than most, which allowed farmers to carefully monitor and control the amount of water through irrigation. However, the ideal climate was offset by Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus, which impacted some of the farms throughout the Caribbean island. A similar virus plagued Nicaragua in 2012, so farmers in the Dominican were able to quickly adapt by employing some of the tactics learned from Nicaragua last year, but the end result was a smaller yield. Still, cigar makers who rely heavily on the Dominican Republic all indicate sufficient inventories. Jhonys Diaz who oversees General Cigar was quick to let the folks at Cigar.com know that their core brands such as Macanudo will be in good supply the next few years due to always having at least several years supply of leaf on hand.
Mexico: The prized San Andres wrapper that Mexico is best known for entered fermentation earlier than other regions since Mexico plants their tobaccos much earlier in the year. However, the crop from 2013 that is now fermenting had a particularly tough season plagued by excessive rain, which often led to high instances of a disease called Black Shank. Mexico’s largest grower, the Turrent family, was less impacted as their proprietary seeds are more disease resistant, but many of the smaller, independent farmers reported extremely low yields.