A worker makes handmade cigars in a cigar factory in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, May 2, 2018. Establishing diplomatic ties with China has generated expectation among Dominica's productive sectors, including the tobacco industry, which see closer relations with Asia's largest economy as an opportunity to expand trade. (Xinhua/Dan Hang)
SANTO DOMINGO, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Establishing diplomatic ties with China has generated expectation among Dominica's productive sectors, including the tobacco industry, which see closer relations with Asia's largest economy as an opportunity to expand trade.
"China ... has a significant consumer market and it will be very beneficial for the Dominican Republic, for products like coffee, rum and Dominican cigars," said Joaquin Cambeiro Oreiro, manager of Caoba Cigars Group, a cigar maker and seller based in the historic district of the capital Santo Domingo.
"We think that in China ... there are consumers, numbering in the millions, who smoke cigars," said Cambeiro.
The executive spoke with Xinhua at the company's small-scale factory, where 30 cigar rollers produce 500 to 700 cigars a day for domestic and international markets.
In 2017, Dominican cigar and cigarette exports to China amounted to 863,265 U.S. dollars, according to the country's customs agency.
Osmar Benitez, president of the Dominican Agribusiness Board (JAD), is confident that establishing diplomatic ties will help boost the country's exports to the Chinese market.
Given the distance between the two countries, which leads shipments to take up to 24 days to go from port to port, Dominican producers are likely to focus their efforts on exporting the island country's internationally renowned products to China, including cacao, coconut, coffee and cigars.
"Currently, Dominican tobacco is number one in the world," said Cambeiro, as he explained the unique qualities of the cigars rolled at the company originally founded by a Spanish immigrant named Julio Perez Gonzalez.
While tobacco leaves are grown in many countries, the soil in Dominica lends the plant "a very superior difference to any other," said Cambeiro.
Last year, the nation's global exports amounted to 813 million dollars, and duty-free zones dominated the sector, with 793.6 million dollars of manufactured tobacco, according to the central bank.
The duty-free zones, established in 2017 and comprising 679 companies, include 82 firms dedicated to tobacco and tobacco products, said the bank.
In terms of production, the Agriculture Ministry reported an output of 193,947 quintals of tobacco for the harvest season running from September 2016 to mid-2017, with some 6,385 hectares cultivated, mainly in the central region of Cibao.
Juan Francisco Caraballo, director of the Dominican Tobacco Institute, said "many local companies have been visited by Chinese delegations and they are highly motivated."
Dominican productive sectors, he said, have been looking forward to the prospect of forging a closer relationship with China, certain that direct ties will boost the industry.
"We were preparing for the time when we have ties with China ... up till now, Dominican tobacco has been entering China via Switzerland," said Caraballo.