Harvest Report: Nicaragua’s Tobacco Season Extends Through June

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Nicaragua’s lush tobacco fields would normally be bare at this time of year, with all the bounty of the harvest hung in drying barns or baled for ageing. This year is different. Due to the consecutive hurricanes that hit Nicaragua in November and disrupted the first plantations, the season is extended for another month, until mid-June.

“We had a terrible start in Estelí due to the two hurricanes that delayed our traditional plantations for more than a month,” said Eduardo Fernández, owner of Aganorsa Leaf, one of the largest producers of quality tobacco. superior in Nicaragua. The growing season in Estelí would normally have started in October, but it started in December due to heavy rains.

Aganorsa Leaf not only grows tobacco to supply its factory of the same name, but also sells its leaves to the premium industry. On the cigar side, his factory produces brands such as Aganorsa Leaf Supreme Leaf and JFR Lunatic, as well as third-party contract brands such as Illusione and Warped.

A threatening cloud hangs over one of the many Cuban tobacco fields of Aganorsa in Nicaragua.

“We still have crops in all regions and all fields,” added Fernández. Aganorsa grows in the three main tobacco growing regions of Nicaragua: Estelí, Jalapa and Condega. Even though Estelí was hit by the rain, Jalapa turns out to be a different story. This area is about 90 miles north of Estelí near the Honduran border.

“A fantastic year at Jalapa,” said Fernández. “Probably the best for 20 years in terms of quality and yield.”

The growing season in Jalapa started on time in October. Aganorsa planted 650 acres of tobacco in Jalapa and another 625 acres between Estelí and Condega. A third of the tobacco is Criollo ’98. The other two thirds are Corojo—Corojo ’99 and Corojo 2012, a new variety that Aganorsa will use in the future. At the end of the season, Fernández predicts nearly 2 million pounds of tobacco, although it is still too early for him to say what percentage will be wrapper grade.

The Plasencia family will also extend their season until June. In Nicaragua, they planted 1,800 acres of tobacco, most of it a hybrid called Habano ’98 that they developed, as well as seeded and broadleaf varieties from Connecticut. Like Aganorsa, Plasencias grow in the three main tobacco regions of Nicaragua as well as on the volcanic island of Ometepe.

The growing exploitation of the Plasencias is immense, supplying tobacco not only to their own factories but also to much of the industry. They produce many third-party cigars in addition to their flagship Nicaraguan brands: Plasencia Alma Fuerte, Alma del Fuego and Alma del Campo.

humidity

Organic tobacco flourishes in the Tierras Nuevas farm of the Plasencia family in Estelí.

“We have fields with excellent tobacco and others with just OK tobacco, especially those at the beginning with a lot of humidity in the fields,” said Nestor Andrés Plasencia, referring to the aftermath of the hurricanes. “Also, we have more blue mold affecting our Connecticut plantings due to humidity.”

Blue mold is a problem for tobacco growers, a fungus that can stain tobacco. In severe cases, blue mold can ruin entire tobacco fields.

Once the harvest is complete, Plasencia expects his business to bring in around 3.5 million pounds of tobacco and estimates that he will be left with 80% Habano ’98 tobacco packaging and 70% packaging from his seed plantations. from Connecticut. Plasencia said among the many problems it has faced this year was heavy rain in April.

“This year, the weather in Nicaragua was rainy at the start of the season because of the two hurricanes,” he says. “After that the weather was very good until two weeks ago when we had rain again.”

Plasencia has planted 100 more acres this year than last year and believes that when he finishes harvesting after the first week of June, “some tobacco will be very strong and some milder.”

AJ Fernandez could conclude the season by the end of this month. He planted 1,600 acres in five regions, including Pueblo Nuevo. Like all winegrowers, he was affected by the weather, delayed by storms.

Aganorsa

The tobacco from this verdant farm was planted by AJ Fernandez in Estelí. (Photo/Richard Leonardi)

“We had two hurricanes which affected us and delayed our first sowing until December 20,” says Fernandez. “And on April 12, we received heavy rains which also affected the harvest.”

Both in the field and in the factory, AJ Fernandez produces its own premium cigar brands in Nicaragua – New World, Enclave, Días de Gloria, Bellas Artes – and an extensive portfolio of third-party lines, including the Diesel brand owned by Scandinavian Tobacco Group and sold primarily through Cigars International.

Fernandez mainly grows the Criollo ’98 variety, but also grows Corojo ’99, Habano 2000, some hardwoods and his own special hybrid, but Criollo ’98 remains his biggest leaf.

“Criollo ’98 is my favourite,” he says. “I find it has the strength, sweetness and flavor that I need to taste for a cigar with character.”

Despite the rainy weather, Fernandez thinks his tobacco this year will be strong. “Not only did the tobacco get a lot of sun, but we passed the very low tobacco, looking for visos and ligeros.” Tobacco topping is a method where the flower of the plant is removed, causing the tobacco to redirect its energy to the leaves, rather than creating seeds within the flower. This process usually results in stronger tobacco.

At the end of his season, Fernandez thinks he will have around three million pounds of tobacco, an amount that should translate to 30 million cigars, but he is already thinking about next season. Fernandez plans to farm seven percent more in the fall and has purchased two new farms, one in Jalapa which he calls “El Porvenir” and another on the outskirts of Estelí called “El Dorado”.

“Both have pristine sandy and loamy soils good for packing,” says Fernandez. In Spanish, “El Porvenir” translates to “the future”.

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