early Tuesday morning fire burned down two large tobacco warehouses of
Tabacalera A. Fuente y Cia., the manufacturer of Fuente Fuente Opus X
and Arturo Fuente cigars. The fire in Villa Gonzalez, near the company's
main offices in Santiago, Dominican Republic, completely destroyed
large inventories of aged tobacco and possibly caused smoke damage to
some other nearby storage facilities.
"We don't really know how much tobacco we have lost," said Carlos Fuente Jr. in a telephone interview from the Dominican Republic today. "But it was a lot—a lot of tobacco."
Fuente Jr. declined to give any specific figures about the quantity or the dollar value of the tobacco lost. But, he said that it included bales of some irreplaceable tobacco that had been purchased in 1990 from a Connecticut grower and may have been harvested as long ago as 1960. Fuente Jr. said the tobacco was still being saved for some special projects. He added, however, that the bulk of the tobacco was regular filler leaves, and that there was very little wrapper tobacco in the burned buildings.
"It's just so sad. You save it. You wait. You save it some more. In my lifetime, we won't be able to recreate some of this tobacco," Fuente Jr. said.
He said that the company had been moving tobacco around to different warehouses in recent months to be sure that the leaves used in their products weren't all in the same place. But he admitted that fire would force them to cut back production for the next year, possibly even for two years. The company also makes cigars for the Ashton and J.C. Newman brands.
"At our current production levels, we just have to cut back so that we can maintain the consistency of our cigars," Fuente Jr. said. He added that they still had plenty of aged tobacco spread around other warehouses throughout the Dominican Republic, but the cutbacks were going to be necessary to ensure the consistency and quality of all the company's cigars.
Fuente Jr. said that Tabacalera A. Fuente production for 2011 was going to be in the range of 22 to 23 million cigars.
The company, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2012, has suffered nine fires during its history.
"Thank God, every one is okay, and no one was hurt," Fuente Jr. said. "So, we're doing pretty well. You just hate to see all that hard work lost."
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