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An Interview with Manuel Quesada

Owner, MATASA, makers of Fonseca, Licenciados, Romeo y Julieta, Jose Benito, Cubita, Royal Dominicana, Credo and Casa Blanca cigars.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 19)

CA: How will that situation affect the consumer? He's already flooded with cigars, half of which he's never heard of and all of a sudden he's going to have two Fonsecas, two H. Upmanns, two Montecristos, two Partagas?

Quesada: First of all, Cigar Aficionado has done a tremendous job in making the consumer a lot more capable of understanding the cigar world. I think that the consumer is able to discern and make distinctions between origins, between types of tobacco, between what creates a strength in a blend, what creates aroma in a blend. I think the cigar smoker would be most interested in these variations in these new adventures in taste and what the possibility of introducing Cuban tobacco to blends might afford them as a smoker. I think that would be a plus.

CA: You have a long-standing relationship with your growers. Have they been greatly increasing their production to keep pace with your growth or do you have to keep adding new growers all the time to supplement your increase each year?

Quesada: Dominican Republic three decades ago used to grow 1 million quintals [100 million pounds] per year of tobacco. In the 1970s, that dwindled and finally the crop at its bottom production was 200,000 quintals, one-fifth of what it was. All that land that used to grow tobacco lay fallow for a number of years because the prices weren't there for the farmers to grow tobacco. And the prices weren't there for us to sell tobacco in the world markets.

CA: Where did all that tobacco go?

Quesada: It used to go to North Africa, to Spain, the Canary Islands, North Europe...

CA: Used for?

Quesada: Cigarettes and short-filler cigars. The United States used to buy enormous amounts of tobacco in Dominican Republic for their short-filler cigars as well. Prices and taxes by the Dominican government made the production dwindle, and with the advent of the new cigar production in Dominican Republic, a lot of the land started to come back into production slowly, because the farmers had dedicated themselves to other things or they had moved to the cities. Their sons were studying to be engineers. But slowly, people from the old tobacco-growing families have come to those fields and started growing tobacco again in land that originally grew tobacco a number of years ago.

CA: But the tobacco that was grown a number of years ago, was it at the quality level that is used for cigarettes as opposed to the quality level for cigars?

Quesada: No, we were also growing Cuban seed and Olor seed at the time. Olor was one of the largest growing varieties in Dominican Republic. And Cuban seed as well. Crillo [cigarette tobacco] used to be the biggest of all. And all had dwindled because of lack of demand.


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