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Take A Tour of A Factory Making Some Of The World’s Best Cigars

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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The Dominican Republic is home to some of the greatest hand-rolled premium cigars in the world and The Daily Caller News Foundation got to tour a factory filled with them.

TheDCNF took a trip to the Dominican Republic to learn about the Dominican cigar industry as the country’s economy is trying to free itself from overbearing international regulation. A panel at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Switzerland will decide the Dominican Republic’s fate.

Cigars

Cigars being rolled in Davidoff Factory, Santiago, Dominican Republic. Credit: J.P. Carroll/TheDCNF

Between the end of May and mid-June, the WTO will issue a ruling on a 2012 Australian law that forced all tobacco products to use plain packaging, TheDCNF previously reported. The Dominican government is arguing a distinction ought to be made between cigars and cigarettes because premium cigars cater to different consumers.

Internationally renowned cigar manufacturer Davidoff has a factory in Santiago — the second-largest city in the country — located in the northwest of the country. Before taking a tour of the facility, TheDCNF met with some of the leading figures in the Dominican cigar business and learned about the history of cigars and their importance to Dominican culture.

Lito Gomez of La Flor Dominicana cigars

Lito Gomez of La Flord Dominicana Cigars in Santiago, Dominican Republic outside the Davidoff Factory. Credit: J.P. Carroll/The DCNF

Dominican historian Rafael Emilio Yunén of the firm Consultores & Asesores Profesionales, a fellow of the Dominican Academy of History, explained the industry’s origins.

According to Yunén, tobacco came to the Dominican Republic from the Amazon with the indigenous community known as the Taíno people.

“Tobacco was so highly valued by the Taíno that on October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus was given some of its leaves by the native people of Guanahaní Island — today’s San Salvador — as a ritual peace-offering.”

Tobacco Leaves

Tobacco leaves at Davidoff Factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Credit: J.P. Carroll/TheDCNF

The Dominicans were “the first cultivators of tobacco that was sent from the Americas to the rest of the world, and from here it spread across the rest of our planet,” stated Yunén. In Yunén’s opinion, due to the quality of the product, “The best locations for planting, harvesting, and shipping this product are found in the Cibao region and, more specifically, around the City of Santiago.”

Also present at the meeting were members of Procigar, the trade association for premium Dominican hand-rolled cigar manufacturers. According to the organization’s website, Procigar is an “association whose objectives then, and now, are to defend, protect and divulge the good name of the land of Cigar Country, number one exporter of Premium Cigars in the World.” Among the association members present was Litto Gomez of La Flor Dominicana cigars.

Packaged Davidoff Cigars

Packaged Davidoff Cigars at the Davidoff Factory in Santiago, Dominican Republic. Credit: J.P. Carroll/TheDCNF

Davidoff’s factory takes advantage of National Free Zones (NFZ) set up by the Dominican government to lessen the tax burden on investors. The number of tobacco companies that have invested in NFZs went from 58 in 2011 to 69 in 2015. Jobs from tobacco have risen by 5.5 percent in NFZs from 2014 to 2015.

One factory employee told TheDCNF he had worked at the factory for 18 years, and in the tobacco industry for 20 years. The employee said his sister worked with him in the factory and his father had spent his career on a tobacco farm. Jobs with a cigar factory pay what is considered a middle class wage in the Dominican Republic, according to the factory tour guide.

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