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Cuba's New Cigar Chief

The Spanish co-head of Habanos tries to strike the right balance between tradition and modernization
James Suckling
From the Print Edition:
Vegas, Mar/Apr 2006

(continued from page 3)

James, you went to the new factories yesterday [Partagas and H. Upmann]. What did you think?

JS: The most interesting part was seeing that the workers were taking their jobs seriously. In the past I saw that the factories were not that well organized. Some workers didn't take the job seriously and now you can really notice the difference. You must be proud of that change.

BJSC: That's what I've been telling you all along. The strategy is to look back-where there are investments to be made. When you are at the same place and doing the same thing for 50, 60 or 100 years, it's very difficult to change things. So then you have to take advantage of moving to a new facility to make changes in the procedure, organization and other things, too. And as you say, you have to work in a more serious fashion.

JS: I saw people in the new factories who looked happier than before because they now work at a place that looks nice and is modern and clean and also very different from what they have at home. Don't they feel better at the factory than at home?

BJSC: Well, they have air-conditioning and electricity.

JS: Yes. But you still hear some people say that it's sad that some of the old factories in Havana are not being used anymore-that the tradition has been broken. What do you think?

BJSC: I think it's very difficult to find the right balance between keeping the tradition and improving on productivity, quality and yield. You have to keep in mind that this country will one day compete with factories in the Dominican Republic, in Mexico and other countries and they will need to have the organization that will allow them to compete at the same level with other countries. If for the production of X amount of cigars, other countries require a certain number of workers, then in Cuba the factories will need approximately the same number of workers…. You have to adapt to the new system without losing the positive part of tradition and know-how.

JS: Do you think new brands or new shapes will be launched in the near future?

BJSC: We have 33 different brands. I think that is good enough.

JS: You also have these new sizes for specific markets, like the Ramon Allones Belicoso for England. Will this continue?

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