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An Interview with Litto Gomez and Ines Lorenzo-Gomez

Owners, La Flor Dominicana
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Laurence Fishburne, Jan/Feb 00

(continued from page 4)


Gomez: When we started in 1994, many tobacco suppliers still had inventories of old tobacco. Two or three years' worth, because it came from a time in which there was not really a huge demand. Then the cigar boom brought too much pressure on the suppliers and they sold off that tobacco inventory. Everybody needed it. I have to say that the tobacco dealers in the Dominican Republic are people with a tremendous sense of values. They have respect for the customers and they have loyalty to them. I remember that there was a time when my tobacco supplier could have closed our factory if he would have sold our tobacco to someone else at a higher price. He could have done that, but he didn't. We always had our supply of tobacco even though there were a lot of very powerful companies offering more money. There we were, a very tiny, insignificant company on the market, and we always had this fine tobacco. You always have to be thankful to our supplier of tobacco, of wrapper and filler and binder. They were great people.


Now today, there is a lot of tobacco again. Everything has changed. We have more access to a lot of different tobaccos that we didn't have before. It started a couple of years ago. As the company gained name recognition within the industry, tobacco suppliers would come to see us and offer different tobaccos. Before, they wouldn't answer my phone calls. It was a joy to start experimenting with different types of tobaccos. It became a lot of fun. We are still having fun with that.


But right now in the Dominican Republic, there is too much tobacco. That is bringing us a different sort of problem. Sometime in 1997, some of the major companies, for whatever reason, decided to start contracting tobacco from the farmers at double the price of the year before. God knows what the intentions were. So, tobacco prices suddenly went way up. With tobacco up in price, a lot of farmers in the Dominican Republic wanted to grow tobacco. You had the farmers that had contracts with the buyers that were safe, but the vast majority of growers decided that even though they didn't have a contract, they were going to grow tobacco anyway. They figured that at those prices they were going to make a lot of money. So what happened is, the buying season starts and the crops start coming in and the people who didn't have contracts, they couldn't sell the tobacco and it's still there in their sheds.


A month ago, the government started putting a little bit of pressure on the big buyers that they need to buy this tobacco from the farmers. So now, people are starting to buy a little bit of that tobacco. But some agitators in the Villa Gonzales area are stirring up these farmers and they are threatening everybody that if the tobacco is not bought from those farmers, nobody is going to grow tobacco. And that is what is happening in the Dominican Republic right now.


CA: How much of your needs can you meet from your 120-acre farm?

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