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An Interview With Jose Orlando Padrón, Chairman, Padrón Cigars Inc.

The patriarch and founder of Padrón Cigars Inc. has been making cigars since 1964.
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Antonio Banderas, Nov/Dec 2005

(continued from page 2)

Q: You did that during the problem with the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. No?
A: Yes, during the war there was an American embargo on Nicaragua from 1985 to 1990, and I had to reduce our production from 5 million to 2 million cigars because I was more interested in maintaining my blend, and my smokers' trust, than in making money. At the time of the war, there was no raw material available. We were in bad shape.

Q: You also made cigars in Honduras at the time?
A: Yes, Honduras. [Padrón still owns and operates the small cigar factory in Danlí, Honduras.] There was no tobacco here in Nicaragua after the war. There was not even electricity!

Q: Incredible. I know you don't wish to add brands, but don't you have plans to produce more products like the Anniversary?
A: Yes, of course, because we have to give the clients new products. But not all the time.

Q: How do you distribute your cigars in the United States?
A: We distribute directly to shops. We do not have a sales force.

Q: Do some clients have priority over others?
A: No, there are no priorities. All of our clients are equally important.

Q: What do you think of your cigar prices? Anniversarys are pricey, don't you think?
A: This cigar is for smokers who can afford to pay for it, but our regular line, I think, is the cheapest in the market. It's been years since our last price increase.

Jorge Padrón: I would like to mention the number of times people have asked us why our traditional line, which we sell for $2 to $6 per cigar, is so cheap. When we started selling cigars to shops during the Dallas trade show in 1993, a lot of people didn't buy our cigars because of the price. They thought that if they were that cheap it was because they were not good. Nowadays, we have maintained the price and the smoker understands that he or she is buying for the taste not the price. You get smokers who want to pay $4 for the best cigar in this price range and that is Padrón 3000. There are other smokers that can afford to pay more and buy the Anniversary. The important thing is that we have cigars for all segments of the market.

Q: When you began making cigars, you wanted to produce a substitute to the Cuban cigar, however, your cigars are completely different from Cuban cigars.
A: What we have done is something never done before. Cuban cigars have something we don't have here: a different climate, sun and soil. This does not mean that all Cuban farms are good, just as it is here. There are several farms we have not used for two or three years because they have not been fertilized properly and tobacco doesn't grow with the quality that is required. The same happens in Cuba. I'm sure they must have eliminated many farms throughout the years due to problems with tobacco quality. You have to look after the soil. You have to feed the soil. If you don't feed the soil then you get weak, famished plants. You saw with your [own] eyes last year's tobacco harvest, the size of the leaf, the quality. That is the most important thing.

Q: Then, have you created a replacement for Cuban cigars?
A: No, I haven't. Cuba will always be Cuba. What we are trying to do is equal, not surpass, Cuba. We will never be able to outdo Cuban cigars.

Q: What do you think of tobacco in Nicaragua nowadays? Do you think quality is the same as before the Sandinistas?
A: Many farms have lost quality—first during the war, later because of blue mold. The blue mold was Nicaragua's tragedy. I ran a test here in 1989. Ridomil [a fungicide used against blue mold] came to Nicaragua at that time. I saw that blue mold spread to part of the tobacco one morning, so I started spreading the Ridomil all around. I processed this tobacco quickly and started smoking it. After this, I was smoking a pipe for six months because it burnt my mouth completely! I told my harvesters that I would not buy any tobacco from them if they used Ridomil. There are other products that can be used and are not that aggressive. I know I am on top of this because I have to look after my smokers, but I don't know if everybody else does the same.

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