The Associated Press

Cuba sold about 160 million of its world-famous cigars last year, in line with recent years’ sales, a tobacco executive said Friday in announcing plans for this year’s annual international cigar festival.

Sales numbers in recent years have averaged around 150 million cigars.

Manuel Garcia, vice president of the island’s cigar-marketing firm Habanos SA, told reporters that the world market for premium cigars is about 400 million, about half of which are sold in the United States. Cuba cannot legally export cigars or any other products to the United States under a 45-year-old American trade embargo against the island.

European countries are the largest market for Cuba’s US$350 million annual cigar business, especially Spain and France, followed by Germany. Asia is also a growing market for Cuban cigars, Garcia said.

Cuba commercializes its premium cigars exclusively through Habanos, a joint venture between the island’s government and the European firm Altadis.

Now in its eighth year, the Festival del Habano will be held Feb. 27 through March 3, drawing as many as 1,000 cigar aficionados from 60 countries to Havana.