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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 22)

CA: When I used to go to Europe five years ago, if I went to a classic tobacconist in London and they had a Dominican cigar, it was usually on the bottom shelf. The tobacconists would say they didn't want to sell them, they were low quality, there was no market for them. That's changed. Do you believe there's a world market for non-Cuban cigars?

Quesada: Quite so. The only problem that we have had is that we have not had enough production to dedicate ourselves to Europe or any other market. The United States has captured our attention completely. Some product has gone to Europe and one particular manufacturer has dedicated themselves strongly to Europe and they have done a wonderful job vis-à-vis the Cuban cigars in Europe. That is, of course, Davidoff. They have done a magnificent job in promoting Dominican Republic cigars in Europe and their sales have grown every year since they started making cigars in Dominican Republic.

CA: But Davidoff is based in Switzerland. What about you and the other mainline manufacturers? Is it still entry-level pipeline push or is there real consumer demand developing now for your cigars as an alternative?

Quesada: I can only speak for our situation because I have no idea what the other manufacturers have faced, but in the last four years, we have unfortunately had to say no to European manufacturers and distributors who have shown interest in distributing products from our company. If they feel that they can ask us for product, they must be sure that they can sell in Europe, so that indicates to me that there is a possibility that there is a market out there for us.

CA: You're one of the leading producers of maduro cigars. Is there a growing demand for that kind of wrapper and is there a growing supply to meet that demand?

Quesada: I don't want to say that there's a growing demand. There is a demand, perhaps because it has been unsatisfied in the last couple of years. Maduro cigars are a very individual type of cigar that has a specific market. The maduro smoker is a maduro smoker. He wants nothing but maduro and that's what he smokes. There is a shortage of maduro cigars and there will be a shortage of maduro cigars because of the line of supply, which comes from two particular countries, Mexico and the United States--where broadleaf is used. There's a shortage of broadleaf in Connecticut because of blue mold this last crop. In Mexico, they have started growing more of the maduro crop in San Andres, but they haven't caught up yet.

CA: So, does that mean that your production of maduro is going to decline?

Quesada: It will not decline, but it will not grow significantly. It will stay basically within the same level. Today, we have about 20 percent of our production into maduro cigars.

CA: The 1995 crop is mostly in the market, if not already sold, and 1996 is in the market, and 1997 is just starting to come in. How do you rate the quality of those three vintages?

Quesada: Those three years in Dominican Republic have been the greatest crops that we have ever had in terms of quality.

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