A few days ago we shared the news of Claudio Sgroi becoming the new President of the Nicaraguan Tobacco Chamber (CNT). The most detailed information we can share today is that the candidacy was put forward by Juan Martinez of Joya de Nicaragua and that the vote was plebiscitary, taking into account the abstention of the nominee.
Sgroi is 43 years old, born in Italy, Sicily, and has been in the tobacco world since 2001. He is currently President and Master Blender of Mombacho Cigars. It is the first time that an European is elected to lead the Chamber.
Claudio has answered a couple of questions, exclusively for our readers. To better understand his answers, it is necessary to briefly explain what the Nicaraguan Tobacco Chamber does.
The “Chambers” in Nicaragua are centralized offices that have the aim of synergistically collaborating with producers and governmental bodies, such as ministries. Each product category has its own reference chamber, such as the tobacco sector, the fifth largest by volume of business in the Land of Volcanoes.
With particular reference to the latter, the tasks attributable to it are mainly those of taking care of relations with the Government, with the Healthcare Funds, supervising new laws and taxes on the matter, but also taking care of and keeping the annual statistics of the entire tobacco sector (quantity of tobacco and number of cigars produced, hectares of land cultivated, numbers relating to import / export, and so on).
Parallel to these functions, there is that of international representation, through the promotion of tobacco and cigars, in particular with the annual organization of Puro Sabor which, in addition to a purely promotional purpose of the cigar, also intends to promote Tourism in Nicaragua.
Last, and not least, the CNT also has philanthropic projects in place: the recycling of plastic (a project is already underway that creates school desks with the reuse of this material), the reforestation of the country’s greenery, and the support for women with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.
Specifically, the Nicaraguan Tobacco Chamber is made up of twenty-seven members, representing the whole tobacco sector: cigar producers, growers, box and band producers. The executive body, however, is entrusted to a Board of Directors made up of the President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and three spokespersons. As can be guessed, the President has the task of directing, proposing new projects, particular attention to relations with the Government.
What does this recognition mean for your professional career?
“After twenty years in the world of tobacco, to be elected President of the CNT, which includes prominent figures of the cigar industry, like Padron, Oliva, Perdomo, Plasencia, Martinez, etc, makes for great personal satisfaction, but also a tangible recognition of the professional skills gained in these years. The Chamber does an exceptional job and I hope to be able to maintain its target, if not improve it. ”
The Pure Sabor 2020 has just ended and, after the forced stop of 2019, was another successful year for the event. How much is this festival a showcase for the CNT?
“This festival is organized and curated by the Nicaraguan Tobacco Chamber. Hearing the feedback from the participants who had already taken part in other previous editions, it would seem that this year’s was the best on all fronts. Although the Chamber has wanted to give a strong international signal in proposing it again, just to reassure the restored normality, we have recorded a drop in the number of participants. Absences that depended both on the embassies of the various countries that continued to advise against travel to Nicaragua, and on the late increase in the numbers of incoming flights by the airlines. However, the festival remains a showcase for the whole country and for the Chamber, which intends to bring even more people, than those registered in recent years “.
The Nicaraguan production has gained in popularity and sales year after year. What do you think is the reason for this constant growth?
“Facts in hand, the same number of cigars are smoked globally. Yet, if in 2009 the Nicaraguan export amounted to 91 million dollars, in 2018 it reached 225 million dollars. The Nicaraguan product has therefore managed to erode, on strategic markets, market shares to competing countries: in Europe they have subtracted quotas from Cuban cigars, while in the States from the Dominican production. At the basis of the growth of these data is an undeniable quality of tobacco and its related work (agronomic attention, new types of fermentation, etc.) which not only make the cigars better, but which also attracts foreign producers, increasingly looking for leaves to use in blends. ”
At present, it is still early to ask you which of the possible projects you intend to carry out in the next two years of the mandate, but are there any ideas that you would like to develop and propose?
“I would certainly like to give CNT a wider international reach. For example, everyone knows the Puro Sabor festival but few know that behind it there is a long and meticulous work, carried out by the Chamber. This is why I would like it to be more present in events and fairs around the world. It would also make me happy if the number of members was extended, to include many producers who are not part of it today.
Another idea that I intend to cultivate is the recognition of the cigar as a Nicaraguan heritage, as it is the result of an armature that works synergistically for its realization.
All this without forgetting the social and philanthropic projects, which in the coming years will be managed by Anielka Esmeralda Ortez [who preceded Sgroi in the presidency mandate, ed.]. “