After four years of impressive growth, the U.S. market for premium, handmade cigars is showing signs of slowing. The latest import figures, released today by the Cigar Association of America, showed that shipments dropped 13.7 percent in the month of October, and decreased by 6.5 percent for the first 10 months of 2019. Shipments from Honduras showed the steepest decline.
Nicaragua, the leading producer of handmade cigars, shipped 7.72 percent fewer cigars in October 2019 than in October 2018, dropping to 16.2 million cigars. Dominican shipments were down 5.5 percent, to 11.4 million. Honduran shipments dropped considerably, down 42.3 percent to 4.4 million cigars.
Comparing the first 10 months of 2019 to the same period in 2018, Nicaraguan imports were unchanged, at 144.2 million cigars. Dominican shipments were down 10.8 percent, to 87.9 million cigars, and Honduran shipments were down 16.1 percent to 48 million units. Those top cigar-producing countries account for 99 percent of the total shipments to the U.S., which were 281.5 million for the first 10 months of 2019.
The final report on 2019 will have November and December data, historically very busy times for cigar sales in the United States, but it’s quite unlikely that 2019 imports will reach the stellar numbers of 2018, when 362 million handmade cigars were shipped to the United States. That was the best year for cigar shipments since the 1990s. However, it’s quite likely that the final 2018 numbers will show that the seven-year-streak of cigar imports exceeding 300 million units will be extended.