September 24, 2008 / 8:03 PM / 9 years ago

Cuban cigar supply said not hurt by hurricanes

HAVANA, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Hurricanes Gustav and Ike destroyed up to 2 million pounds of Cuba's best tobacco, but reserves of the leaf should cover demand for the island's premium cigars for the next year, a tobacco executive said on Wednesday.

The storms, which struck within 10 days of each other, caused major damage to the tobacco industry infrastructure, which will require a significant investment to repair, said Manuel Garcia, vice president of cigar producer Habanos S.A.

"We think that for at least the next year we should not have great difficulties with the supply of cigars because luckily for us, we have a reserve of raw material," he said at a Havana business conference.

"Undoubtedly we are going to need an important financial injection for the tobacco (industry)," he said.

Habanos, a joint venture between the Cuban government and Altadis, a unit of British-based Imperial Tobacco IMT.L, produces and sells some of the world's best-known cigars, including Monte Cristo, Cohiba, Romeo y Julieta and Partagas.

It reported sales of $402 million in 2007, up from $375 million in 2006.

The Cuban government said the two storms destroyed 3,414 barns where the harvested tobacco was being cured and damaged another 1,590 when they ripped through the western province of Pinar del Rio, where Cuba's top tobacco is grown.

Between 1.6 million and 2 million pounds of tobacco were estimated to have been destroyed.

Garcia said the cost of replacing or repairing buildings was being determined and that longer-term effects on tobacco supply would depend on the speed of rebuilding.

Editing by Jeff Franks

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