Strong demand brought on by the “lockdown effect”, combined with a slowdown of production in Cuba and logistic problems caused by Covid-19 mean that tobacconists’ shelves are looking bare. Habanos S.A. calls for patience.
The first to sound the alarm was 5th Avenue Trading, the exclusive importer of Cuban cigars for Germany, Austria, and Poland. When it published its annual results back in January, the distributor already noted that “although Cohibas, large cigars, and limited editions have become increasingly difficult to find over the last few years, stockouts on the standard range are now also becoming more common.” Less loquacious now, the German group carefully referred us to Habanos S.A. when we ask for explanations about this unprecedented situation. But the observations made at the start of the year still hold true for the majority of European countries.
“90% of the Cuban catalogue is out of stock,” the owner of one of the largest tobacconists in Paris told us. “For the remaining 10%, you can get deliveries every day if you want, but essentially small formats – smaller than the robusto. There are no robustos or anything larger than that.”
The situation is affecting every market to varying degrees, in particular the more mature markets in Western Europe, where Cuban cigars are most popular. “There has been a shortage in supply for premium cigars (Behike, limited editions, etc.) for several years,” explains Nicky Meire, the marketing director of Cubacigar, the importer for Benelux. “But this year, shortages are also sometimes affecting standards, like the Partagás D4 or P2, and all robustos more generally. We even sometimes run out of José L. Piedras or Quinteros! Deliveries still arrive on a regular basis; we receive cigars – just not enough of them.” The president of Italian importer, Diadema, Andrea Vicenzi concurs: “There are issues on all types of products, but shortages are more frequent on large formats.” “I think the word ‘shortage’ is a bit strong,” counters Juan Giron, the communication manager of Spanish importer, Tabacalera. “But we do occasionally run out of stock on certain lines, which obviously represents an inconvenience for our customers.”