Back in 1998, Hurricane Mitch struck Central America. Known as the second-deadliest Atlantic hurricane, it was a Category 5 that destroyed curing barns, stripped soil from tobacco farms, and devastated the region’s infrastructure. Needless to say, cigar production took a heavy hit.
Now, in 2020, Honduras and Nicaragua’s tobacco regions have found themselves facing a one-two punch of destructive storms: Eta and Iota. Thankfully, the damage wrought by Hurricane Eta was lighter than expected, even though it reached the level of Category 4 at its peak. Earlier this week, however, Hurricane Iota made landfall as another Category 4 just 15 miles from where Eta did.
As Iota made its way west, it gradually diminished in power, but the additional rainfall was still enough to cause problems for tobacco farmers’ planting season. According to the Nicaraguan Chamber of Tobacco:
“…with the arrival of Hurricane Iota in Category 4, it is foreseeable that the start of the harvest will have to be delayed until optimal conditions are in place, which would entail an adjustment in the cultivation schedule.”
Even if cigar production does experience a minor hiccup over the coming weeks, it seems safe to say that the industry dodged not one but two bullets. While there was considerable damage on the Northern Caribbean coast, many of the tobacco growing regions, such as Esteli, seem to have escaped such a fate. That isn’t just good news for cigar lovers, but for the economy and people of Honduras, Nicaragua, and other nearby countries.