Cuban Vice President Jose Ramon Machado on Thursday urged tobacco farmers in his country to tap further into the national advantage and increase output.
"Cuban tobacco is the world's best. ... It is an advantage that we cannot afford to waste, so we have to have a strong output," official daily Granma quoted him as saying during a visit to the western province of Pinar del Rio, Cuba's tobacco-growing center.
In order to boost the output, besides securing the market, tens of thousands of people in Pinar del Rio are employed, said Machado.
Another 15,940 hectares of tobacco, about 70 percent of the current national total, are to be planted in the province for the next harvest season.
Despite the high numbers, production has declined in recent years, mainly due to a lack of mature infrastructure and the aging of producers, Machado said.
Each year, more than 100 million Cuban cigars are sold worldwide,according to figures from state tobacco firm Cubatabaco.
Tobacco is Cuba's fourth biggest source of foreign trade revenue -- after exports of services, tourism and nickel -- bringing in more than 400 million dollars a year.