Sanctions against Russia: no unanimity among cigar producers

While Davidoff and STG have taken the radical decision to suspend their business in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, the other players of the industry are waiting, even wallowing in silence.

“Oettinger Davidoff AG condemns the invasion and the use of violence in Ukraine and we support the sanctions adopted by the US, the European Union as well as Switzerland. This is why, after careful consideration, we have to temporarily suspend our business with the Russian Federation until further notice.” The decision of the Swiss group announced on March 7 to L’Amateur de Cigare was followed a few hours later by that, similar, of Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG). “We strongly condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the group that owns the CAO, Macanudo and Don Tomas brands told us. We believe we as a company have the responsibility – together with other international companies – to exert pressure on the Russian regime and make it clear that we will not accept their actions. Consequently, we have decided to suspend all trading with Russia as of March 1″.

While Davidoff does not expand on the volume of its business in Russia, STG acknowledges that its sales in Russia represent “a very minor part of the group’s sales” and specifies that it has no direct employees in Russia nor in Ukraine.

Wait-and-see attitude

Davidoff and STG’s announcements are the most radical take on the handmade cigar industry. While several major global groups in other sectors, including the luxury sector, have announced a suspension of their activities in Russia after the invasion of Ukraine – LVMH, Kering and Hermès have announced the closure of their stores – premium cigar producers are much more wait-and-see. The European Union has also decided to ban exports of “luxury products” to Russia to “attack the way of life of the oligarchs”, which concerns for example French champagnes, but not cigars which are produced outside the territory of the European Union.

“There is no business with Russia and there is nothing that we buy from Putin”, declares, laconic, Christian Eiroa, producer in Honduras (CLE, Asylum…). Frederik Vandermarliere, president of VCF (Oliva, Nub) does not consider, for the moment, suspending its exports and assures that there is no discussion on this subject among the Nicaraguan producers gathered in the Chamber of tabacaleros of the Nicaragua (CNT).

The last known cigar export figure from Nicaragua to the Russian Federation is from 2018. At the time, only $33,310 worth of cigars were exported to the Russian Federation. In previous years, this figure may have been higher, but it never exceeded 100,000 dollars, indicates a source within the CNT, a way of saying that Russia is a secondary or even minor market for Nicaragua. “The CNT as such has not ruled on this conflict and I don’t think it will,” said another sector source on condition of anonymity.

Even more evasive, Maya Selva confides in L’Amateur does not wish to “make statements”, while confirming that her cigars (Flor de Selva, Cumpay, Villa Zamorano) are still distributed in Russia to this day.

Silence in Cuba

In the Dominican Republic, it is radio silence. Apart from Davidoff, which is the main Dominican exporter to Russia, the other manufacturers have not taken a position. According to our sources, the association of Dominican producers Procigar is consulting its members on the position to take.

Asked several times by L’Amateur, Habanos SA and Topcigars (exclusive importer of Cuban cigars in Russia) did not answer our questions. In a “statement by the Cuban revolutionary government”, Havana had denounced, on February 26, “the determination of the United States to continue the progressive expansion of NATO towards the borders of the Russian Federation” and affirmed that “the Russia has the right to defend itself”.

Laurent Mimouni (with Roberto Mora in Nicaragua and Daniela Cruz Gil in the Dominican Republic)

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