Jorge Padrón stood in the damp furrow between rows of tobacco planted just five weeks before. He fondled the velvety leaves, already nearly waist high, between his fingers, and said, "Isn't this beautiful?" It was; a field of luminescent-green tobacco stretched several football fields away, with the leaves moving seductively in the light morning breeze under the brilliant tropical sunshine.
For Padrón, the president of Piloto Cigars, the parent company of the Padrón cigar brand, the field represents more than just a pretty place to grow tobacco. It's an investment in the future.
"This is about protection for us," he said. He later explained the two new fincas—small farms—that he had shown me that morning were part of a long-term strategy to give the company control over nearly all the tobacco the Padróns use, and to ensure the supply as they begin to plan for expansion beyond the approximately six million cigars a year they are making now.
Padrón said that the two fincas—Villa Vieja and Donoso—will primarily be used to grow ligero tobacco, the strongest leaves in the filler blends for Padrón cigars. Ligero has been in short supply in recent years, making Padrón's decision to take total control of the farms all the more important.
Villa Vieja had been part of the Padrón's tobacco mix, but they had been renting the property from the owners. The Padróns also built a new tobacco processing facility on the property, all painted in the signature yellow and brown of Padrón properties, and renovated the farm's tobacco barns.
Donoso is a new acquisition, but it is also located in the flat, volcanic soils around the city of Estelí. The Padróns have also built several new tobacco barns on the property
The acquisition of the 120 acres is a significant investment for the company. In the boom mentality of the small city, sources there say tobacco lands can cost more than $15,000 an acre-a princely sum anywhere but particularly high for a developing third world country.
As one drives around Estelí, however, you can see that the prices aren't slowing the development of new farms; tobacco fields dot the landscape, and next to fields already planted, "For Sale" signs hang from fences in front of fallow fields.
And for the Padróns, the new farms and the potential to expand production, is all part of their commitment to be part of the ongoing surge in Nicaraguan cigars.
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