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Genetically Modified Seeds to Compensate for Weather-Damaged Tobacco Crops in Cuba

On January 28th, interesting news was reported through Reuters about the current state of Cuba's tobacco crops, which had undergone significant damage that worried the nation's cigar makers (see Unexpected Rains Hit Cuban Tobacco Harvest). Below is a portion of an update as reported yesterday, February 29th, to Reuters from Habanos, S.A.

Cuban cigar-maker says overcoming bad weather with better seeds

Cuban cigar monopoly Habanos S.A. has compensated for a series of bad harvests by using genetically improved seeds and the renewal of weather-damaged land in Cuba's western tobacco-growing region, company officials said on Monday.

The weather phenomena El Niño led to Cuba's worst drought in a century in 2015, followed by heavy rain during the northern winter, which is normally a dry period in Cuba.

That has raised concerns among farmers and aficionados that the island's supply of its famous cigars might suffer at a time of increased demand resulting from detente with the United States.

Unusual weather has also affected competitors elsewhere in the Caribbean, said Leopoldo Cintra, commercial vice-president of Habanos. The industry in Cuba has compensated with a "comprehensive plan" including genetically improved seeds that produce tobacco plants more resistant to drought and unseasonable rains.

Cintra also mentioned unspecified technology and the "recovery" of land. Farmers have reported replanting crops wiped out by rain.

Cigar experts say this year's annual harvest, which is coming to an end in March, will be the fourth substandard harvest in a row, a claim Habanos executives did not dispute.

"We think the impact will be minimal," said Javier Terres, vice-president of development, who joined Cintra at a news conference to begin Cuba's annual cigar festival.

"What's more, we think ... there will be a positive recovery in our business," Terres said.

Reuters Markets | Mon Feb 29, 2016 4:43pm EST

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