VALUED at an estimated US$800m, the Dominican Republic’s (DR) cigar market is one of the world’s largest and accounts for approximately 29 percent of the world’s cigar production.
On Wednesday, the country’s first international cigar festival was opened in TT at the Apsara/Old Havana nightclub located at Queen’s Park East.
The event was developed by the DR’s embassy in TT in partnership with the nightclub. Also collaborating on the event was this country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the DR’s Export and Investment Center. In welcoming attendees, DR ambassador to TT Dr José Serulle Ramia said, “The tobacco sector has played a starring role in the development of the Dominican economy over the past two hundred and fifty years.”
This came as he pointed to the potential benefits for both nations through the expansion of the country’s cigar market in TT. With the DR purchasing oil, natural gas and cereal goods from TT at an approximate value of 600 million USD on an annual basis Ramia said, “It is important to diversify trade.”
The cigar festival which runs for three days from October 2-4 will feature several brands of DR cigars including Poderosa, Enigma and El Puente. According to Ramia the cigars’ quality are defined by their hand made creation and assures they,”Preserve an organic factor that takes into account the consumer’s health.”
Ramia also took the opportunity to call for “broadened commercial and cultural exchanges between the two countries.” He says an enhanced trading relationship between the two countries builds their relevancy in the international landscape of economy and culture.
Speaking about the three-day festival, owner of the Apsara/Old Havana nightclub Sharif Mohamed said, “We are looking for good participation as it is something new.” Noting that the DR’s cigar market is the largest in the world he said, “We are trying to get them into the Caribbean market.”
Acting deputy permanent secretary of the trade ministry Karlene Roach applauded the festival saying, “This is a signal event that seeks to strengthen relations between the DR and TT.” She noted the government’s commitment to facilitating growth and development of businesses in the non-energy sector. She further added, “This festival will in no small way boost trade between both countries.”
Present at the opening were diplomats from various embassies in TT and representatives from the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturing Association. Patronizing the event was cigar enthusiast Marc Sorzano who said, “We are here to try out and learn more about Dominican cigars.”