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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 6)

BJSC: I believe it is still pending an appeal in the Supreme Court. It is still at a stage, until the end of the year, where the other side is presenting its allegations. After this, the Supreme Court will decide if our appeal is accepted or not. So this is where we stand right now. We are in the process. This is the information I have. I don't know anything else.

JS: The case looks difficult for you.

BJSC: I know that not all of the cases that get to the Supreme Court are accepted by it. I don't know anything else; the only thing I can say is that we are in the waiting process for the appeal.

JS: Everybody wants to know what will happen when the U.S. market opens for Cuban cigars. Do you think that you can increase production to meet American market demand?

BJSC: I believe that the land is there and an increase in production is perfectly possible. The capacity is there.

JS: What about the ownership of the brands? There are a number of brands that have problems.

BJSC: When the day comes when the American market opens, for me as a co-president of Habanos, it will be wonderful news. Even if difficulties would come up, such as problems with the brands or being able to react quickly to the new demand, it would be wonderful to have access to the biggest consumer market of premium cigars in the world. I hope someday the embargo is lifted and we can then have a presence in this important market.

JS: There are people from your traditional markets, such as the English market, who are worried that when the American market opens to Cuba, they will not receive enough supplies and they will also lose many of their customers.

BJSC: Let me start by repeating that, in my knowledge, the industrial and agricultural capacities are there [to increase production]. The second point I want to make is that those distributors should follow the stock policy we recommend, not because of the possibility that the American market would suddenly be available, but mainly because this is a natural product. You see that tomorrow Hurricane Wilma, instead of striking Cancún, can strike over here, and you know how much destruction it caused over there. There are years where instead of a harvest of 100 [acres] you will have a harvest of 50.

JS: Yes.


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