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Commentary: Nicaragua Rising

22 Oct 2013

Any year now it will be official: Nicaragua will surpass the Dominican Republic as the biggest cigar importer to the United States.

Flag-map_of_NicaraguaBetween January and May this year (the latest published data), 47 million cigars were imported from the Dominican Republic, while just under 43 million were imported from Nicaragua, less than a 10 percent difference. Last year for the same period the Dominican had imported 44.8 million, versus 36 million from Nicaragua, a 20 percent difference.

In other words, the gap is closing, and quickly.

But it isn’t just a matter of numbers. The center of cigar innovation seems to be shifting to Estelí.

For the first time in memory, the top four “hottest brands” (brands retailers report are most in demand) in the Cigar Aficionado retailer survey are all Nicaraguan: Drew Estate, Tatuaje, Padrón, and Flor de Las Antillas.

And the list of new brands coming out of Nicaragua is almost endless. That’s not to say they are all good, but clearly people wanting to bring new cigars to market think Nicaragua gives them the best chance at success with consumers.

Even more telling is that classic Dominican brands are expanding to Nicaragua: La Gloria Cubana, Davidoff, and Romeo y Julieta. Five years ago that would be unthinkable.

-Patrick S

photo credit: Wikimedia

Drew Estate