Habanos S.A. plans next year to export a premium cigar made specially for the Chinese market, according to a Xinhua News Agency story quoting the company’s director of marketing, Ernesto Gonzalez.

Gonzalez, who was speaking ahead of this week’s China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai, said that launching the Chinese-market cigar was a priority for Habanos.

China is reported to have the fastest-growing market for Habanos, a 50-50 joint venture between the Cuban government and Imperial Brands.

Gonzalez was quoted as saying that sales of premium Cuban cigars in China had risen in 2017 by 33 percent, year-on-year.

The sales surge was said to have been largely due to an agreement signed in July 2017 between Habanos, which markets Cuban cigars around the world, and the China National Tobacco Corporation. The agreement aimed to increase sales in China by informing consumers there about Cuban cigars.

Cuba’s premium hand-rolled cigars were introduced to the Chinese market a decade ago, but it is believed that there is still room for much growth.

Gonzalez said that Habanos would use the opportunities provided by the CIIE to try to forge new partnerships and expand sales.

“We still have a lot of potential in the Chinese market, and we must continue to strive so consumers know about our brands and cigar culture,” he said.

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