Back-to-back blows from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike have the Cuban tobacco industry reeling, reports the Miami Herald. Hurricane Ike alone destroyed half of this year's tobacco plants, more than 3,000 tobacco-drying barns and nearly 9,000 homes for workers. The destruction occurred just days after Gustav had already wreaked havoc on a similar scale.
It takes about five years for harvested tobacco to come to market as cigars. ''That's going to be billions in losses,'' predicted one veteran cigar maker. Cuban cigars are widely regarded as the world's best. They have an extra mystique in the US, where the long-standing trade embargo against Cuba makes them especially sought after.