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Inside Cuban Cigars—A Talk With Cubatabaco Head Francisco Padron

Cigar Aficionado meets with Cubatabaco's top official, Francisco Padron, to discuss Cuba's cigar industry.
Marvin R. Shanken
From the Print Edition:
Rush Limbaugh, Spring 94

Francisco Padron, the director of Cubatabaco, Cuba's cigar export sales group, didn't get much good news in 1993. A March storm severely damaged the tobacco crop and the cloth tarps used to grow shade wrappers. In combination with other factors, Padron was forced to cut back sharply on Cuba's cigar exports.

Cigar Aficionado Editor and Publisher Marvin R. Shanken interviewed Padron in Mexico City in early December. They discussed the current state of the Cuban cigar industry and what the future holds for the country's cigar exports.

Cigar Aficionado: There has been a lot of talk that [the 1993] hurricane severely damaged Cuba's tobacco crops, and that this has affected quality and quantity, particularly for wrappers. What is the situation for production of Havana handmade cigars for export? What can we look forward to in the next few years?

Francisco Padron: The hurricane caused a great deal of damage. We lost about 60 percent of our crop. It was only a quantity problem, however. The quality was very good, very good. It is a pity that in this past year we have been having very good quality crops, but the quantity has not been good. We are not delivering enough cigars to the world market because of this.

C.A.: But the word was that the large leaf wrapper crop was annihilated, and that this was going to adversely affect the production of large-sized cigars--the double coronas, Churchills and so forth?
Padron: If you have a big crop, you deliver more large leaves and you have more room to produce more large cigars and to choose the best leaves. When you have a small crop, it's the inverse. Wrappers are a very delicate thing. So when the hurricane came, it hurt the wrapper crop. It hurt all of the crop, but particularly the wrapper crop.

But even with that problem, we produced [in 1993] about 200 million cigars for the domestic market. But we are not delivering anything to the export market that does not have the right quality because quality is the first thing above all for us.

C.A.: In 1993, what were the total exports for Cuban cigars?
Padron: About 57 million cigars in 1993.

C.A.: What did you export in 1992?
Padron: 67 million.

C.A.: And in 1991?
Padron: 77 million.

C.A.: And 1990?
Padron: More or less the same quantity, about 80 million.

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