New President of Nicaragua’s Tobacco Association

Juan Ignacio Martinez, the executive president of Joya de Nicaragua, has been named the new president of the Nicaraguan Association of Tobacco Producers. The announcement was made last Friday during the fourth annual Nicaraguan cigar festival, Puro Sabor. Martinez was elected during a board meeting held in Estelí, Nicaragua.

Martinez replaces Nestor Plasencia Jr. of the Plasencia cigar company. Plasencia had led the organization for the last five years and had helped expand it to include 15 cigar companies and tobacco growers, the majority of the major players in Nicaragua's cigar business. The companies involved are Agrotobaccos, A.J. Fernandez, ASP, Drew Estate, Joya de Nicaragua, My Father Cigars, NACSA, Padrón, PENSA, Plasencia, Procenicsa, Scandinavian Tobacco Group, Tabacalera Oliva, Tabacalera Tavicusa and Tabacos de Nicaragua.

"One of my challenges is to help the organization continue to formalize its work, especially here in Nicaragua," Martinez said in an interview. "One of the things you don't see abroad is the way we relate with the government and other private companies, which allows the cigar industry here to develop and to operate and perform very freely and openly."

"The tobacco sector is the sixth most important export product," Martinez said, "and the only one that really generates value. We exports brands. The others are commodities. Gold. Coffee. Meat. What we do, not only in terms of employment and value in the country, we bring the name of the country to the rest of the world."

Martinez oversees Joya de Nicaragua, which was acquired by his father, Alejandro Martinez Cuenca, more than 20 years. Joya de Nicaragua was the first major cigar brand produced in Nicaragua in the early 1970s, and was once owned by then-Nicaraguan President Anastasio Somoza.