Cuba's Largest Cigar Factory
Posted: Mar 4, 2010 12:49pm ET
I dig going to the cigar factories in Havana. I don’t go as often as I would like because they don’t open them to the public all that much. The one exception is Partagas, which has regular visits each week for tourists.
It was coolio to visit the La Corona factory last week during the 12 Festival Habano. The workers were obviously on their best behavior. This is now the biggest factory in Cuba, according to one worker from La Corona. More than 900 people work there. Just over 250 are rollers, and they can produce between 40,000 and 50,000 cigars a day. Annual production at La Corona is about 10 million sticks.
The factory is the mother factory for San Cristobal de La Habana, among others. But they make just about everything—all the key brands as well as various sizes, or vitolas. Check out my blog from two days ago that explains Cuba’s top brands and sizes.
Fernando Peraza is now the manager of the factory, after working some time abroad, mostly in Cypress. I met him years ago when he was manager of the Romeo y Julieta factory. He is a real pro. He doesn’t talk much, but he is conscientious and very serious.
It was early in the morning when I arrived, so the lector was reading the daily news to the rollers as they worked. This is a centuries old scene, and traditionally the rollers would give a tiny amount of money each day to the lector to render this service. I love such traditions in Cuba.
I looked around the tobacco sorting rooms, rolling rooms and packaging rooms. It’s all standard stuff. I spoke a little with the rollers. They seemed well enough. They didn’t think much of the quality of the wrapper. In fact, the person who showed us around said that they were working only at 60 percent capacity because of a shortage of wrapper.
Last year was a good harvest, but apparently the weather was humid during the drying period. So there was less good wrapper then expected.
As I said on my video, this may not be a bad thing considering the downturn in the sales of Cuban cigars, although I heard from friends at Habanos S.A. that the first few months of this year showed signs of recovery. Vamos a ver—We will see.
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