Procigar, the association of cigar manufacturers in the Dominican Republic, hosted its 11th Procigar Festival from Feb. 18-23. More than 800 people from around the world—consumers, retailers, suppliers and manufacturers—flocked to the island paradise to learn how some of the world’s most loved cigars are made and to tour cigar factories and lush tobacco fields. They discovered new blends expected to be released in the coming year. They met the men and women behind their favorite brands and, of course, they celebrated the Dominican Republic and its fabled cigars. Throughout the festival, guests enjoyed world-class hospitality, lavish entertainment, samplings of some of the Dominican Republic’s favorite national foods and drinks, and excursions to some of the country’s most beautiful natural resources.
Procigar began 26 years ago when Carlos Fuente Sr. from Arturo Fuente, Hendrik Kelner Sr. from Tabadom, Daniel Nunez from General Cigar Company and Manolo Quesada from Quesada Cigars agreed to work together to share their love for the Dominican Republic, its culture, and its tobacco and cigars. Procigar would establish a set of high quality standards for its member companies and would promote the Dominican Republic and its cigars internationally. Since then, Procigar has grown to 14 member companies with this year’s announcement that Royal Agio Cigars, American Packaging and the tobacco processing company Manojos Tobacco Process have joined the association. The other companies in Procigar are Arturo Fuente, Davidoff, De Los Reyes Cigars, Quesada Cigars, La Flor Dominicana, Tabacalera de Garcia (Imperial Tobacco), Tabacalera La Allianza (EPC Cigars), General Cigar Company, PDR Cigars, La Aurora and Tabacalera Palma.
According to figures released by Procigar, Dominican cigar manufacturers, tobacco processors and associated suppliers employed 120,000 people in 2017. The industry exported approximately 220 million premium cigars last year. The cigar industry is the Dominican Republic’s most important agricultural product, with cigar sales accounting for more than $600 million to the Dominican economy. Even as governments worldwide make it more difficult and expensive for people to enjoy premium cigars, the Dominican cigar industry is proving to be quite resilient.
“It’s amazing how well the industry is doing right now,” says Francisco Batista, general manager of Royal Agio Cigars.
Tabacalera La Allianza’s Ernesto Perez-Carrillo agrees. “This has been a very good year for us and a very good year for Dominican cigars as a whole,” he says. “We continue to get new customers in new markets all the time, and I’m sure the same is true for everybody else in the Dominican cigar industry.”
Water, Water, Everywhere
While the Dominican cigar industry has experienced growth since last year’s festival, its members expressed some concern about the frequent rainfall affecting much of the country. Festival goers experienced periods of sunshine interrupted by rainfalls—some of which were significant—on every festival day. Water stood in the tobacco fields, and one grower admitted to losing about 15 percent of this year’s crop during the early stages after the seedlings were transplanted into the fields. However, he was confident that the rest of the crop would be fine as long as he and the rest of the Dominican growers watched out for blue mold and black shank—potentially devastating diseases thatcan affect tobacco when there is too much rain.