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James Suckling

Cuba Meets Ecuador

Posted: Mar 8, 2010 3:51pm ET

Americans might finally get the chance to try Robaina grown tobacco in the not too distance future. Hiroshi Robaina, the grandson of Cuba’s best-known tobacco grower, Alejandro Robaina, is setting up plantations in Ecuador.

"The climate is the same level as Cuba," said the 33-year-old last week, during a visit to his family's plantation in Pinar del Río, Cuba. They were tending their shade grown tobacco of about 15 acres. The crop was about three to four weeks behind schedule due to wet weather. “The sun is a little less strong in Ecuador, but the soil, it is like in Pinar del Río. It is very sandy.’

Hiroshi is working with a cousin from Miami, Igmar Robaina, who has organized the project near the town of Quevedo, Ecuador. They are planting about 200 acres of tobacco, consisting of two different farms. One is named Leopoldo and the other Santa Teresa. They plan to grow both filler and wrapper tobacco. And they hope to perhaps one day produce their own cigars.

“I think that Ecuador has even more potential than people think,” said Hiroshi, who has already visited the tobacco area there a number of times. “The problem has been that they have always been focused on wrapper. What I can tell, they can do plenty more with filler as well. “

Hiroshi said that they would be planting various tobacco types including Habana 92, Criollo 98,  Corojo 99, Habanos 2000, and Sumatra. “Everything grows well there,” he said. “We have to see what does best.”

He said that one big difference he found is that tobacco growers in Ecuador use less plants per acre, meaning they plant the tobacco slightly father apart than in Cuba. He said that the sunlight is not as strong, so they need to leave more space to reduce the effects of shade to allow the plants to photosynthesize better. They will also use different curing barns compared to Cuba and hope to use more temperature and humidity control.

“I want to be clear that we can never make tobacco as great as Cuba,” he said. “That’s the greatest in the world. But I have the intention to make tobacco with my know-how as close as possible to the quality of Cuban tobacco.”


You can follow James Suckling on Twitter: twitter.com/JamesSuckling


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