he U.S. cigar market continued its progressive growth, with the volume of premium cigars imported increasing by 77 percent in 1997, compared to an increase of 67 percent in 1996, and 31 percent in 1995. A total of 519 million cigars were shipped to the U.S. in 1997 versus 293 million in the previous year. In just five years the cigar market has grown almost five times in size.
All of the top fifteen premium cigar exporters to the U.S. experienced a marked growth, except for Germany which posted a 5 percent decrease. The remaining cigar producing nations showed a collective 367 percent increase, exporting 1.6 million cigars to the U.S. up from 352,000 in 1996.
The Dominican Republic continued to lead all producers of premium cigars, posting a 94 percent increase in U.S. shipments, or 268 million units versus 138 million in 1996. In 1997, Dominican factories produced more than half of all the premium cigars imported to the U.S. The value of the nation's U.S. exports rose by 117 percent, from $ 105.9 million in 1996 to $230.4 million in 1997.
Honduras retained its second place standing with a solid 40 percent gain in volume, or 117 million cigars exported in 1997 compared to 83.7 million in 1996. The gap continued to widen between the top two producers, though, with the Dominican Republic shipping 2.3 cigars for each Honduran, compared to 1.7 for 1996.
Ranked fifth in U.S. imports in 1995, Nicaragua continued its impressive growth, becoming the third ranked U.S. supplier for the second year. Imports of Nicaraguan cigars rose 142 percent to 43.5 million units versus 18 million in 1996. Among the key eight suppliers, as determined by the Cigar Association of America, Nicaragua posted the year's largest gain in declared cigar value - 240 percent - to $31.4 million from $9.2 million the year before.
Mexico become the fourth largest U.S. supplier, leaping past Jamaica on an 81 percent increase in exports to the U.S. In all, Mexico exported 26.2 million units in 1997 versus 14.4 million in 1996. The declared value of the country's premium U.S. export rose 128 percent to $24.2 million from $10.6 million in 1996.
While Jamaica slipped from its fourth place ranking to fifth in 1997, its exports to the U.S. grew to 18.1 million units in 1997, compared to 15. 5 million in 1996, for a 17 percent gain. This far surpasses 1996's meager 1.3 percent rise from Jamaica's 1995's U.S. exports.
In 1997, the Canary Islands showed one of the greatest leaps in volume, exporting 5.2 million cigars versus 1.6 million in 1996, a 210 percent increase. The producer also posted a tremendous gain in declared value, coming in just under Nicaragua with a jump of 232 percent to $5.8 million compared to $1.7 million in 1996.
The Philippines posted an 86 percent gain in volume with 2.8 million cigars exported to the U.S. versus 1.5 million in 1996. The two nations with the greatest increase in volume were Indonesia and Costa Rica. Indonesia, a longtime producer of tobacco popularly used as cigar wrappers, showed the greatest increase, up 6,863 percent from 1996. The country exported 2.8 million units in 1997 compared to 41,000 in the previous year. Costa Rica posted a 487 percent increase, shipping 1.4 million cigars in 1997 versus 253,000 in 1996.
Total U.S. imports of all cigars- large and small - reached 609.9 million in 1997. Total declared value for all cigars imported was $401.2 million, with $393.5 million accounted for by premium cigars. The eight key producing nations exported 482.4 million units in 1997 versus 274.2 million in 1996, an increase of 76 percent. They also posted a declared value of $379.7 million, up 113 percent from $117.9 million in 1996. - Diamond