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GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS OF CIGAR LEAF.
The most difficult kind of tobacco to produce in perfection, is the leaf used in the manufacture of cigars of the finest quality. Until the advent of wrappers imported from the island of Sumatra, the most popular cigar in the United States was one made with Havana fillers (grown in Cuba), bound with Connecticut binders, and wrapped with the finest selections of Connecticut broadleaf or Connecticut-valley-grown Havana secdleaf. Selections from the cigar-leaf tobacco grown in the Onondaga and Chemung valleys of Central New York, Lancaster and Bucks counties, Pa., the Miami valley of Ohio, and Dane and Rock counties in Wisconsin, have also been used in the place of, or in addition to, Connecticut leaf. In some years the crop, in some one or two of these sections, may be superior to that grown in other parts of the cigar-leaf States. Inferior cigar-leaf tobaccocos are largely used in making the cheaper grades of smokers, stogies, etc. Some years part of the crop is so poor in quality as to be unsuitable even for this purpose. In that event, it is usually sold for export to Germany, and used in manufacturing the low grade smoking tobaccos and so-called cigars common in the low countries of Europe.
Since the advent of Sumatra wrappers, the industry has been considerably depressed, because the use of Sumatran wrappers displaced great quantities of domestic leaf. This Sumatran leaf is no better in appearance than the best American wrappers, and is destitute of quality or aroma, but is used because it is so light and thin that but two pounds of it are required to wrap 1000 cigars, whereas four to ten pounds of American leaf are needed to cover that number of cigars, owing to the heavier weight of domestic wrappers, which, however, are superior in other respects. This Sumatran leaf got its foothold in the American market by the grossest customs frauds. The tariff of 1883 imposed a duty of 75 cents per pound on leaf suitable for cigar wrappers, but this was avoided by importing Sumatran leaf as fillers at only 35 cents per pound. Government was thus swindled out of millions of revenue, while at the same time domestic leaf was driven out of the home market. In the tariff of 1890, the duty was raised to two dollars per pound on leaf suitable for wrappers, being left at 35 cents on fillers. In anticipation of higher rates, however, nearly two years' supply of Sumatran leaf was imported before the latter went into effect, and has since continued on a large scale, as the following table shows:
Table V.—IMPOSTS OF LEAF TOBACCO INTO THE UNITED STATES. (In millions of pounds and dollars.)
In explanation of this table, it should be said that practically all the leaf imported from Sumatra (the bulk of which comes via Amsterdam) is suitable for cigar wrappers, while only a small fraction of the Cuban leaf is used for this purpose, say 15 to 30 per cent. The leaf imported from other countries is mainly fillers. There is no longer doubt but that the United States can produce an abundance of both fillers and wrappers, and it is not surprising that American farmers should insist upon having the American market for all grades of cigar leaf, c will be seen that during the 12 years for which statistics are given, nearly $150,000,000 has been paid out for this imported leaf. More than one-third of this has been for Sumatran wrappers, which displace the American product. Since 1885, the average importation of this Sumatran intruder has been 4,775,000 pounds annually. As only about two pounds of it are required to wrap 1000 cigars, the supply has been sufficient to cover an average of over 2300 million cigars annually, or more than half the average production of cigars in the United States. The wonder is, that our domestic cigar wrapper leaf industry has stood up so well under such terrific and unfair competition.
It is now evident, however, that higher duties on wrapper leaf are likely to prevail for years to come. Meanwhile, there is a more confident feeling among growers in the future of the cigar-leaf industry, the more so because of the immense development of cigar manufacture and consumption, as set forth in Chapter II. But the marvelous profits of the Sumatran tobacco syndicates have directed the attention of other countries to the possibilities of growing tobacco for cigar purposes. Borneo, Manilla and other Eastern islands are experimenting extensively and intelligently, while Mexico, Central America and certain sections of South America are giving more attention to the same industry. In Mexico, quite a boom in cigar-leaf tobacco culture has been developed during the past few years, and some of the Mexican leaf is of promising quality, in spite of the crude conditions under which it is grown. We may see quite a development of cigar-leaf culture in the Hawaiian islands also.