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An Interview With Pedro Martín

Pedro Martín, the founder and owner of Tropical Tobacco.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
Orlando Hernandez, Mar/Apr 99

(continued from page 11)

tobacco, no question about it. They have some areas over there that are good. But the problem there is the farmers. They are not used to working with tobacco like the Cuban farmer.

CA: Do you think the Dominican farmers are improving?
Martín: They are improving, but little by little. And the first thing they have to do is to make different kinds of sheds to cure the tobacco. With these open sheds like they have over there, the tobacco gets wet. But they got good tobacco. Nicaragua has good tobacco, too. And there's some good tobacco in Honduras in the Jamastran valley. We went to Costa Rica a little while ago, and we saw some excellent tobacco there, too. But as I said in Nicaragua, they have a lot of sections where the tobacco is the same as Cuba.

CA: Do you think they will be able in Nicaragua to get back to the level that they were in 1978, before the revolution?
Martín: I hope so. But I tell you very frankly, for blending, I like the Estelí tobacco better than the Jalapa. You blend that with Dominican and it is a perfect blend. I don't like the tobacco in Jalapa to blend with the Dominicans.

CA: Do you still own tobacco fields?
Martín: No, not anymore.

CA: Do you have any plans to start growing your own tobacco?
Martín: No. We get a good farmer and we try to figure out the tobacco, and if the cigar is good, we make a contract with the farmer and deliver it. We check what they are doing with the tobacco. We also buy from wholesalers.

CA: Have prices come down for tobacco?
Martín: Some prices have come down, but the problem is that manufacturers and wholesalers bought a lot of tobacco in the beginning. They paid high prices for it, but it was not the best tobacco. There's still a lot of tobacco out there, but a lot of bad tobacco. It was tobacco grown by people who didn't know what they were doing. We quit buying tobacco for a while in the Dominican Republic.

CA: Let's talk a little more about the future of Tropical Tobacco. Are you going to launch any new brands? What's the plan?
Martín: We're going to concentrate on the brands we have. We've got enough brands. We have about two or three brands that we've registered and that aren't in the market right now, like Casanova. With brands today, and cigars becoming like any other item, you have to do a lot of advertising, otherwise you don't sell. So the more brands you have, the more money you have to spend on it. So we have to concentrate on two or three brands, otherwise we will get lost.

CA: Do you see Don Juan remaining your largest seller, and V Centennial the second?
Martín: I would say so.

CA: Do you think that that brand mix will remain the same over-seas also?
Martín: Yes. We will concentrate on these two or three brands. I think 1999 is going to tell a lot about our company. It may be that one of the other brands or one of the less strong cigars may do better in some country than we'd expect. So you never know. We have a lot of brands registered.

CA: Casanova is a great name, too.
Martín: And eventually we should start it. There is a lot of capacity in this new factory, but if the boom had lasted a little longer, we may have done something in Honduras or Nicaragua because of its much cheaper labor. The Dominican Republic is getting expensive. But eventually, if we do well in the rest of the world, especially in Asia, then we will have to use it to keep up with that demand. Cigar smoking is improving in the rest of the world. People are smoking more cigars, no question about it. Premium cigars, not cheap cigars.

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