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An Interview With Manuel Quesada

The head of Manufactura de Tabacos S.A. (Matasa), makers of Fonseca, Cubita and other cigars.
David Savona
From the Print Edition:
Alec Baldwin, May/June 2004

(continued from page 3)

A: Oh, heavens! Twenty thousand.

Q: Could you be a viable business at that level?

A: Well, it was being supported by the leaf business at the time, because we were getting started. We had to buy a whole bunch of equipment, molds, and buy some tobacco, and the wrapper, binders, and so on. It was a very meager and very humble start. And difficult, because nobody knew the Dominican Republic blend.

Q: Was there ever a time when the cigar business looked a little bit dicey, when you thought this might not work?

A: Quite so. In the ,80s, it was doldrums. It was very, very slow. The leaf business was always steady because the dark cigarettes were always big in Europe.

Q: Talk about your leaf brokerage business, if that's the correct way to describe it.

A: No, it's not really a brokerage, because we buy our tobacco and then we sell it. So we become the owners of the tobacco. We used to

supply farmers with all the know-how and the money. We'd buy the tobacco, then grade it, pack it and sell it as filler for either short-fill cigars or cigarettes. And long-filler as well, because Tampa would buy a lot of long-filler. The Canary Islands would buy some long-filler. And the Dominican Republic was starting to use it more.

Q: Is that also Matasa?

A: No, that's a separate company, called Manipuladora de Tabaccos CxA.

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