Tobacco everywhere

For the manufacture of cigars, tobacco is grown all over the world, from Poland to South Africa, from Argentina to Canada, and westward from the Philippines to Mexico. But cigar tobaccos are grown mainly in the intertropical areas.

Origin of tobacco

Tobacco is known as a plant native to America. Some species were identified in the South Pacific. There are many species and varieties. Not all of them are used in smoking products. Many are grown as ornamental plants, as they bloom frequently, displaying colors from white to dark red to purple.

These are some of the countries in which tobacco is grown, to produce its cigars.


Argentina grows air-cured tobacco in the Misiones and Corrientes provinces, and air-cured tobacco in the Salta area. Misiones also has a Burley-like production. These tobaccos are primarily for cigarettes, but Corrientes is prized for short-fill cigars due to its mild flavor. Argentina used to be a large producer and exporter, but changes in economic and income tax policies have severely damaged production, making tobacco too expensive to be competitive in the international market. Consequently, production volumes have decreased.


Brazil is one of the largest tobacco producers in the world. The central-eastern state of Bahia is an important pure tobacco growing area, about 100 miles west of the state capital, Salvador de Bahia, an active port on the Atlantic coast. The northern state of Alagoas is home to a production around the city of Arapiraca where mature cigar wrappers are grown. The southern states of Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina produce tobacco for cigarettes and pipes.


Cameroon cigar wrappers are grown in the eastern part of the country. The growing area extends along the eastern border to the Central African Republic. The casings are grown in the air, without fertilizers or pesticides, by small farmers. The average size of a plantation is approximately one acre. The seed is native to Sumatra, introduced to the country just after WWII. First cultivated for the needs of the French monopoly, tobacco was offered on the international market when production was too large for this single use. Much appreciated by European manufacturers and large American cigar companies, Cameroon wrapper production declined in the late 1980s due to poor management. Today the quantities are small and the quality could be better.


China is by far the largest tobacco producer, with approximately 5 million metric tons. The United States follows with about 1 million metric tons. Chinese tobacco is of the smoke-cured type, not aromatic and with a slightly spicy flavor. This tobacco is not suitable for cigars. It is mainly used for local cigarette consumption. A small quantity is exported. The cigarette industries import tobacco and use it as a cheap, neutral filler.

Connecticut, United States

The Connecticut Valley in the northeastern US is well known for its bright yellow cigar wrapper. Due to a very hot and sunny summer, tobacco is grown in the shade. Whoever flew over Hartford, CT, sitting by the window, couldn’t help but see the vast expanse of white dirt around them – tobacco fields covered in white clothing to protect plants from direct sunlight. And the huge barns, big as cathedrals, ready for fireplace curing. Impressive!


Tobacco grows throughout Cuba. Their premium cigar has been made, I hope, with tobacco sourced from the western province of Vuelta Abajo, where some really good stuff is harvested. In central and eastern Cuba, the Remedios and Oriente provinces produce tobacco that is supposed to be unacceptable for what everyone calls a Havana.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is a traditional tobacco growing country. In the 1960s a Cuban seed was introduced and the resulting tobacco (Piloto Cubano) became famous as a good substitute for Cuban tobacco that was no longer allowed to enter the United States. The exiled Cubans did a great job there. Piloto Cubano is a full-bodied tobacco but, perhaps, it lacks some aroma. Mixed with the more aromatic Dominican Olor type, Piloto Cubano makes 100% Dominican cigar a very decent cigar. Both Dominican types are good ingredients for multi-origin mixes.

Eastern Mediterranean countries

The eastern Mediterranean countries are dedicated to the cultivation of oriental-type tobacco, cured in the sun. Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria are the main producers, but Lebanon, Syria, Macedonia and Romania are also growing. This tobacco has tiny leaves, sometimes only 2 inches long. Curing in the sun gives them a yellowish color and a high sugar content. The aroma is generally rich and a small proportion of oriental tobacco in a blend adds a lot to the flavor. This tobacco is not used for long-fill cigars, but only for short-fill cigars and cigarettes.


Ecuador is the perfect place to grow wraps, because it is located in Ecuador! And it also has rich soils. The climatic conditions, with an almost permanent cloudy sky, provide natural shade, protecting the wrapper plants from sunlight and allowing the tobacco to become thin and light. Ecuador supplies Connecticut and Sumatra type wrappers to many cigar factories around the world.


Honduras has earned a good reputation for making premium cigars. The country is a fairly small tobacco producer and cigars are made mainly from imported leaves. However, Honduras has quite a good potential for growing tobacco, especially wrappers, and could become a major player in the future.


Tobacco is grown on many islands in the Archipelago, but when it comes to cigars, Sumatra and Java are the only ones. Sumatra wraps are known all over the world. Central Java (Vorstenland) and East Java (Besuki) produce filling and wrapping materials in abundance. Indonesia is a key country for pure tobacco.


Dark air cured tobaccos are produced in Mexico, mainly in the provinces of Vera Cruz and Tampico, on the east coast along the Golf. There is also some production in Yucatán. Formerly a state-owned operation, it is now managed by private individuals and cooperatives. Mexican tobacco is very dark and the best leaves can be used as ripe wrappers. In San Andrés de Tuxtla (Vera Cruz), there is a very interesting production of Sumatra seed wrappers.


In the Philippines, tobacco cultivation is concentrated in the northern part of the main island of Luzon. Traditionally, black cigar tobacco was grown and Philippine cigars were very famous, under the powerful Philippine General Tabaccos Company. They probably declined because they were too mild. Today, the Philippines still grows dark tobacco and has developed an outdoor cured tobacco production for blond cigarettes.


Zimbabwe is among the top three countries for high-quality smoke-cured tobacco (with the US and Brazil). The embargo that affected the country, when it was still Rhodesia, did not affect production. It made the Rhodesians more inventive and they kept producing. Right now, Zambia and Tanzania, neighboring countries were selling a lot! When the embargo was lifted in 1980, allowing us to negotiate directly, we discovered a fascinating organization and team, the best in the world. Tobacco was the main activity in the country and getting a job in the tobacco sector was a challenge for many young men. Zimbabwe’s current agricultural policy, which we will not discuss here, will likely remove this country from the list of tobacco producers. The cigar industry will not be affected by what mainly affects smoke-cured tobaccos. Brazil should be the biggest beneficiary of this situation.

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