The following is a time-line summary of significant dates in Cuban tobacco & cigar history.
Columbus "discovers" indigenous tobacco in Cuba and takes it back to the Old World.
Spain takes control of Cuba.
La Casa de Contratatacion de la Habana
formed to develop tobacco production in Cuba.
Royal monopoly control on tobacco growing in Cuba imposed and vigorously enforced.
Tobacco industry monopoly ends and a boom in cigar production export commences.
The Spanish–American war brings provisional independence to Cuba
administered by the United States. The American / British buy-out begins.
Cuba gained formal independence from the United States on 20 May 1902, as the
Republic of Cuba.
Cigar making machines introduced into Cuba.
The Revolution occurs (ousting corrupt President Batista) and Fidel Castro takes control of Cuba under a
Castro nationalises the Cuban cigar industry on 15 September 1960. For more detail, see below.
Empresa Cubana del Tabaco
(Cubatabaco) was formed and over one hundred export brands discontinued.
The 1962 Cuban Missile crisis results in a USA embargo. Full restrictions are enforced in 1963.
Cuban factory Vitolas de Galera
names are reduced and rationalised. For more detail, see below.
Start of Cuba's Special Period, a near decade of economic crisis following
the collapse of the Soviet Union (who had been propping up Castro & Cuba).
Habanos Sociedad Anomina
(Habanos S.A) created as the commercial (sales) arm of Cubatabaco.
Cubatabaco retains control of all aspects of cigar production.
. formed by merger between Spain's Tabacalera S.A.
and France's SEITA
purchases a 50% share in Habanos S.A
formed and takes over from
as the manufacturing arm of Habanos S.A
Internacional Cubana de Tabacos S.A.
formed to manufacture &
promote the Guantanamera brand and the various brands of mini cigars
(mini, club, & puritos).
A major policy change is introduced. Over the next five years, many low-selling vitolas are discontinued and all machine-made production switches to handmade. New release categories are introduced, emphasising limited volume special edition cigars. Technological and process improvements improve production quality.
Altadis (a French-Spanish company) has accepts a bid of €50 a share from Britain’s Imperial
Tobacco (valuing the company at €12.6 billion, for its 252,436,856 shares).
Altadis holds a 50% share of Habanos SA
Fidel Castro's illness triggers speculation of the end of the US embargo.
This, combined with the pending
merger, raises concerns among collectors regarding supply, quality and pricing of Cuban cigars.
The final sale/transfer of Altadis to BIT finalised.
Fidel Castro announces his retirement as President of the Council of State, and Commander-in-Chief.
He remains leader of the Cuban Communist Party. His brother, Raúl Castro, assumes the presidency and implements various reforms in Cuba.
Major figures in the Cuban cigar industry are arrested for alleged corruption. Although these allegations are never proven, it nonetheless results in a shakeup of the leadership of the Cuban side of Habanos S.A.
Imperial Brands plc (Imperial Tobacco had renamed in 2016) announces that it is seeking bidders for its premium tobacco business, including its 50% stake in Habanos S.A.
In April 2020, Imperial Brands announced that it had reached an agreement to sell its tobacco businesses, with the international portion including Altidas and the Habanos S.A. stake to be sold to Allied Cigar Corporation SL. Allied Cigar appears to be a holding company, the ownership of which is not clear. The sale closes in October of 2020.
During 2020 and 2021, COVID-19 restrictions led to either total closures or reduced production capacity at tobacco factories at different times, and impacted the ability of tobacco farmers to hire temporary workers for the harvest. The reduction in tourists visiting Cuba had significantly reduced the number of flights, which impeded the flow of some production inputs like packaging materials and the available cargo capacity for exporting finished cigars. The lack of tourist income also put considerable pressure on the Cuban economy, leading to shortages in all areas. Fuel shortages have impacted agriculture and transport, and caused regular power outages, exacerbated in August 2022 by a five-day fire that reportedly destroyed 40% of Cuba’s main fuel storage facility. Fires were also reported in tobacco storage warehouses in February and May of 2022, with considerable loss of raw material. The country also saw high levels of emigration of skilled workers during this period.
By May of 2022, most retail shelves were essentially empty, with whatever supply did arrive being immediately sold to customers on a waiting list. Sales on the secondary market saw Habanos commanding twice or more the recommended retail for new-production boxes.
In response to this, Habanos S.A. announced a large general price increase. Prices of the Cohiba and Trinidad brands were pegged to match pricing in Hong Kong—one of the most expensive markets worldwide—more than doubling the price in many places. All other cigars were also subject to significant increases, from thirty per cent on some everyday cigars, to fifty per cent or higher on high-demand and premium lines. A further price increase of five to fifteen per cent followed in January 2023.
In September 2022, Hurricane Ian caused devastation in Cuba, particularly in the Pinar del Río province, where severe winds destroyed many tobacco farm buildings. This was still having impacts in March 2023, when the Cuban state newspaper Granma reported that the 2022/2023 season would have the smallest area of land planted with tobacco on record.
Early 2023 also saw significant changes in personnel at the executive level in Habanos S.A.