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2012 Big Smoke Saturday Seminars—The Nicaragua Panel
Posted: November 13, 2012
Nicaragua's phenomenal growth in the cigar world, which has taken it from being off the radar screen to number two in the world, was the subject for the final seminar of the Big Smoke Las Vegas Saturday session, and John Oliva Jr. of the renowned Oliva Tobacco Co. family of tobacco growers was offering an explanation: "If you want your cigar to taste like something, you choose Nicaragua. Nicaragua has, for lack of a better term, balls."
Whatever the nomenclature, growth in the country that once saw its tobacco production devastated by a debilitating civil war has been phenomenal-a rate of 10 percent a year-as Nicaragua now threatens to overtake the world-leader, the Dominican Republic.
A confluence of great soil and weather and a population skilled at processing tobacco were all reasons given for the Central American countries preeminence. "We are not rich in land," said Nestor Andrés Plasencia, of Plasencia Tobacco, "but the land we have is very rich."
The panel of four speakers also included Eduardo Fernandez, of Aganorsa, and Alejandro Martinez-Cuenca, of Joya de Nicaragua, with Cigar Aficionado senior editor David Savona moderating.
Fernandez, of the fast-growing tobacco company and maker of Casa Fernandez cigars, emphasized the stability of the country, which in the 1980s was overrun by combat. Today, he said, the political situation has normalized, labor relations are good and the social environment is one of tranquility. "You can walk the streets at night and you don't have to worry. We all are investing in Nicaragua because we believe in it."
Plasencia stressed that the country's people have "tobacco in their blood," which makes them adept processors of tobacco. Martinez concurred, adding that "the people of Nicaragua are not inheriting the Cuban desire to work with tobacco, they have had it since before Christopher Columbus. Theirs is a spirit that is reflected in our tobacco."
Fernandez discussed Jalapa, a region he compared to Cuba's Pinar del Río with its reddish, sandy soil. The area he said, was especially good for growing wrapper tobacco. Oliva stressed that Estelí, with its thick clay soil, is where tobacco blenders look to find strength: "When you want to kick up a cigar, that's where the balls come from." Fernandez added that the medio tiempo of Nicaragua can be like alligator skin. "Ligero that coarse is only produced in Nicaragua."
Innovations in tobacco growing were also a topic for discussion. Plasencia said that he was working on hybrid that would have a resistance to blue mold, the tobacco scourge that can wipe out whole fields in a matter of days. Oliva said that he, too, was working on blending seed types to improve yields.
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