| HAVANA, Sept 24
HAVANA, Sept 24 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
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)