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An Interview with Manuel Quesada

Owner, MATASA, makers of Fonseca, Licenciados, Romeo y Julieta, Jose Benito, Cubita, Royal Dominicana, Credo and Casa Blanca cigars.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Denzel Washington, Jan/Feb 98

(continued from page 13)

Quesada: No, sir, that's going to be a bigger factory, because it will do about 15 million handmade cigars and it will do 15 million hand-rolled cigars.

CA: Handmade versus hand-rolled. That went straight over my head. Are we going machine-rolled?

Quesada: We're talking machine-bunched, hand-rolled.

CA: What brands will that factory produce?

Quesada: Those will also be new brands, and some old brands from the Canary Islands that have been in existence in Europe for a number of years but not sold in the United States.

CA: Regarding tobacco quality, you're in the market buying the best tobacco you can. What are you looking for?

Quesada: We're looking for the traditional countries that we have always purchased from, and those have been Brazil, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Honduras and sometimes Mexico, for our fillers. For binders, we're looking for Central America again: Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico and Dominican Republic. For wrappers we're looking for United States, both the Connecticut shade and the broadleaf. We also buy some Ecuador wrappers with Connecticut style as well as the Sumatra style. We discontinued Cameroon wrapper a number of years ago because the supply became too scarce and nearly all the quantities of leaf were contracted by two companies. There was nothing else available. We have been using some TBN [wrapper] out of Indonesia for the two brands that we were making with Cameroon. We're looking basically for those countries in those categories of ingredients.

Dominican Republic, of course, is our home base, so we have much better control of both the filler and the binders, because we have our farms and warehouses and we have a factory. In the other countries, we have long-standing relationships with people who have been selling and farming tobacco forever and selling us tobacco. Of course, we now compete with other people who are in the market for the same tobaccos. The long-standing relationships have been honored by our suppliers, however. It's just that the quantities we have required have increased significantly from our commitments five years ago and our suppliers have not been able to supply our new requirements.

CA: What's the current status of pricing in tobacco?

Quesada: All countries are higher than they ever have been and they will continue to be higher, unfortunately for the next year at least.

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