Lots of rain, lots of people. Those were the themes of the 2018 Procigar Festival in the Dominican Republic.
No one was happy about the rain and rightfully so. Sure, it was an annoyance to our tours, but the bigger issue is the impact it will have on this year’s tobacco crop. And it will have an impact.
I didn’t see much damage from wind, but I did see fields with too much water and nowhere for it to go. Rain isn’t unheard of, but from past experiences, it was a relatively short burst of light rain for a 10-15 minute stretch.
Not this year. Sure, sometimes the rain only lasted 15 minutes, but it was a torrential downpour for those 900 seconds. And sometimes the rain wasn’t just for 15 minutes. And sometimes it didn’t just rain once per day, or even one per hour.
None of that is particularly good for tobacco and it was something the organization’s members would talk about it at the now-canceled press conference: climate change.
Global warming, climate change, the weather—whatever you want to call it, here’s the simple fact as it relates to tobacco: the weather is no longer predictable and that’s not good for growing tobacco. People are planting at different times and with different techniques, the seasons seem more sporadic and the extremes are moving further from the center.
Just two years ago the press conference focused on the drought the island was experiencing and its effect on tobacco. Now, we’ve gone to the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
While the Dominican Republic isn’t close to the problems that plagued Cuba for much of the last five years, the weather—at least as far as the tobacco growers are concerned—could (and should) be a lot better than what it is now.
The impacts are unknown but highly unlikely to be positive.
If you read any of the last Day 3-5 posts, you’ll note a consistent theme: roasted pork and lots of people.
While I have nothing bad to say about the pork, the size of the groups visiting factories seemed to have gotten a lot larger. Perhaps some of it is the fact the last two factories I visited were with very small groups of people, perhaps some of it is that I’m trying to care a bit more about our photographs, but there’s also the simple math that the Procigar group for the Cigar Family Charitable Foundation tour on Friday was roughly three times the size of prior years.
From talking to other people, this wasn’t just the three tours that I was on. So I’m not sure what caused the influx of people, but Procigar and its members should look at practical solutions on how to address this.
No matter what Abe Flores does–microphones, headsets, VR glasses—there’s no way that 20 people can see into some of the rooms at his PDR factory. And PDR isn’t the only one. In short, the groups have to get smaller or split up more, either that, or the short people like me aren’t going to see much.
On one hand, it’s a great sign and follows a similar trend with growing popularity for Procigar’s sold out dinners, but I definitely enjoyed my tours less this year and I think that is entirely due to the group sizes.
Rain and crowds aside, Procigar remains the festival I would recommend to people. Quite simply, they (generally) have their shit together.
The festival is organized well and not just organized well for a Latin American cigar festival. The organizers are constantly soliciting feedback—before, during and after the festival—from attendees as well as those who work the festival. And then, that feedback then seems to result in changes, something isn’t always the case with other festivals.
But the biggest difference when comparing Procigar to other festivals is that it seems like people actually want to be there. Nicaragua’s Puro Sabor has gotten better, but it’s only a few years removed from members openly complaining about the event during the event. And it still hasn’t figured out a way to get most of its members—which there are more of—to show up to one event, let alone, four consecutive nights.
I’m not qualified to talk about the Festival del Habano, but I’ve yet to hear someone use the word “organized” to describe the event without some sort of modifier in front of it. China has a cigar festival—bet you didn’t know that—that I also haven’t attended and I’m told that Honduras is planning one next year.
But—unless you don’t smoke Dominican cigars—Procigar is the one you should go to. It’s not cheapest, it’s not the one where Paris Hilton will show, but it is the one you are likely to have the most fun at. And that starts and ends with the fact that the people putting it on it actually enjoy the thing.
You’ll also get cigars, lots of cigars, as you see in the video above.
If you’d like to read my coverage from the festival, here’s the day-by-day breakdown:
Disclosure: Procigar paid for my registration, which includes lodging and meals.