ROMEO Y JULIETA

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CUBA CLOSES ROMEO Y JULIETA PLANT

BY JAMES SUCKLING

Cuba's Romeo y Julieta factory has been closed.

Apparently, the old factory had become too dilapidated to be refurbished. Workers will move to a new factory being developed just outside of Havana. It's the third traditional factory in Havana to be closed - H. Upmann and La Corona were moved to newer facilities over the last two years.

The Romeo y Julieta factory oversees the production of Romeo y Julieta premium cigars, not just in its factory but in Havana's other factories. (The Romeo y Julieta brand, among Cuba's largest cigar brands, is made in several factories.) The brands made exclusively at Romeo y Julieta are Cuaba, Saint Luis Rey, Quai d'Orsay and Rey del Mundo.

In addition, many in the Cuban cigar business continue to speak about how the old El Rey del Mundo factory will be converted to a specialties factory, where all of Cuba's limited-edition humidors will be produced. Rey del Mundo now makes primarily machine-made premium cigars, including Los Statos de Luxe, Troya and Gispert. Some believe it's a shame that RyJ as well as the other two factories have been closed, believing that quality Cuban premium cigars should be made in traditional, age-old factories.

But the Cubans think the opposite. Miguel Barzaga, production deputy manager of H. Upmann factory told me: "You have to go forward and accept the new...You cannot stop and not let progress in! One needs to be up to date with the rest of the world. In the past, what was in fashion was the traditional way of doing things; nowadays, it doesn't work like that and you need to let new technology in the door."

He also said that it is important to have a clean and healthy environment for his workers, so they could focus on making the best possible premium cigars. And the new factories, like his, provide this. "There's improvement not just in the working conditions for the workers but also improvement in the production process," he added.




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