“Nicaragua is for cigars, as Napa Valley is for wine in the world.” With this analogy, the Owner, and Chairman of Joya de Nicaragua, Dr. Alejandro Martínez Cuenca began his talk that took place on the last day of the Nicaraguan Cigar Festival, Puro Sabor 2016.

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The talk was very enriching because through it, the audience could dive into the history of the Nicaraguan tobacco that has been restricted from the public eye for so long.

The Origins of Tobacco in Nicaragua

He starts by explaining the beginnings of the tobacco industry in Nicaragua by telling an anecdote that may not be in the history books but is a certified historical occurrence.

In 1926, while the US forces occupied Nicaragua, there was a tobacco prohibition. A man called Augusto Sandino pressured the government to lift the prohibition because it was bringing a lot of poverty to the country by not allowing farmers to put their skills into practice and grow an industry that he thought to be as profitable as coffee or cattle.

Eventually, thanks to Sandino, who wrote a letter to the then President Juan Bautista Sacasa, the ban was eventually lifted. Since the lifting of the ban, tobacco has been one of the instruments through which Nicaraguans have been fighting poverty.

Dr. Martinez stresses that when we think about the history of tobacco in Nicaragua, we need to not only think about the passion of cigar smoking, but also to awaken as consumers to the benefits that an industry like this one can bring to a nation.

The Tobacco Industry Moving Forward

Dr. Martinez then moves on to talk about the future of the tobacco industry based on events that have transcurred in the history of tobacco. He states that he remains optimistic regardless of news and regulations that come from different regulating organizations.


However, we cannot move forward in the future if we continue to do things like we did in the past. In other words, a constant evolution is going to allow a new stage of development for the industry. This brought him to his next point, the challenges that he foresees in the industry.

Without wanting to politicize the situation, Dr. Martinez brought up his opinion about the Cuban embargo. He believes that the embargo should have been lifted a long time ago.

As an example, he talked about the experience in his own company, Joya de Nicaragua. Joya is now present in 57 countries with distributors, and he acknowledged that Cuban tobacco constitutes his main competitor.

Therefore, he argues that despite the fact that there will be a transition period, the lift on the Cuban embargo will ultimately not affect sales. He continues by empowering the consumer; he says: ‘The consumer should be the one choosing which cigar they want to buy because they are different after all.”

He then adds that over the last ten years, there has been a 10% annual increase in sales. Therefore,  he reinstates that there is no reason to believe that introducing Cuban cigars into the market will affect sales.

Key Factors for Growth in the Tobacco Industry

In short, the main takeaway from Dr. Martinez talk about the past, present and future of the tobacco industry, is that the consumer needs to be awaken about the implications of being part of this great industry.

Awaken to know that they are part of the process of jump starting the economy of many developing nations, but also, that they should have the last say and be empowered to choose the tobacco they want to smoke by being aware of their differences.