During the first eight months of 2021 there were nearly 100 million more premium cigars imported to the U.S. compared to the same period in 2020 according to a new report from the Cigar Association of America (CAA).
The trade group has published its import report for August 2021 and it shows yet another month of strong premium cigar imports. Specifically, the CAA estimates 40.15 million per cigars were imported to the U.S. during August 2021, a 17 percent increase compared to the 34.33 million premium cigars the CAA estimates were imported in August 2020.
CAA estimates that there were 294.35 million premium cigars imported during the first eight months of 2021 compared to just 198.15 million during the same period in 2020. The 48.5 percent YTD increase compared to 2020 is due to both push and pull factors. While demand has certainly increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many cigar factories were shut down for various parts of the spring of 2020 due to the pandemic. As such, imports during those months were uniquely low despite what ended up being stronger demand.
Per the report, Nicaragua led the way with 19.3 million cigars exported to the U.S. in August, followed by the Dominican Republic (12.67 million) and then Honduras (7.95 million).
A strong August will be of no surprise to many, if not most people, in the cigar industry. This year—particularly through the first three quarters—has been an incredibly strong year for cigar sales continuing the momentum established during the second half of 2020. Given these numbers, it seems almost certain that there will be more than 400 million premium cigars imported during 2021. What’s a lot less clear is how long the momentum will last. In recent weeks there’s been an uptick in chatter regarding cigar store shelves looking fuller, a change compared to the previous 18 months where many retailers have struggled to keep consistent supplies.
CAA calculates these numbers based on both the import numbers provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Customs Services and information from the cigar companies themselves. The trade group’s numbers are not exact, because of reporting differences it estimates how many “large cigars” were actually “premium cigars.” The differences between the two are that there are some machine-made cigars that meet the U.S. definition of a “large cigar,” those cigars would not be considered premium cigars by most people.