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China becomes top emerging market for Cuban premium cigars

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-02-27 14:16

HAVANA - Sales of Cuban premium cigars increased in China by 33 percent in 2017 compared with the previous year, showing China has become the main emerging market for Habanos SA, the company that commercializes the exclusive Cuban cigars.

In an interview with Xinhua, Jose Maria Lopez, vice-president of Habanos SA, said China is currently the third largest market worldwide for the company, which saw a $500 million sale last year, or a 12-percent growth.

"China is today our biggest emerging market with a potential for growth that is already materializing year after year. It is a market that is opening up to our products and in which we have placed many hopes of future growth," he said shortly after the opening of the 20th Habanos Festival on Monday.

Lopez highlighted the agreement signed in July 2017 between Habanos and the China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC) to increase sales and work together to promote knowledge and taste in China for Cuban cigars.

"We have established a work group and held periodic meetings to develop the Chinese market for premium cigars. We will also facilitate technical exchanges so that China can develop its own cigar industry," he added.

He added that the key to increase sales in China is to hold constant promotion activities for Cuban cigars.

In this context, Lopez said Chinese consumers are choosing to smoke these cigars because of their "excellent quality."

"We are also promoting the culture of Cuban cigars in China. Therefore, our customers there want to smoke this type of tobacco because it is the best in the world," he said.

The Spanish executive said global brands like Montecristo, Cohiba, Partagas, and Romeo y Julieta are currently sold in China and are key to increasing sales there.

Spain and France continue to be the two top markets for Habanos SA worldwide.

Last year, 450 million Habanos cigars were sold, dominating the worldwide market with 70 percent of units and 80 percent of value, though they are not able to be sold in the United States due to the economic embargo.

Held at Havana's Convention Center, the Cuban cigar festival is attended by 2,000 businessmen, sommeliers, collectors, artists, executives, producers and cigar aficionados from around 70 nations.

The first "Habanos World Challenge" contest will also be held this week for contestants to demonstrate their knowledge in the field of cigars with practical elements.

As part of the event scheduled until March 2, participants will visit tobacco plantations in the western province of Pinar del Rio as well as cigar factories in the capital.

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