In 2007, the Corojo farm owned by the Eiroa family in the Jamastran Valley of Honduras began a program called Bayer CropScience. Developed by the Bayer Corporation, CropScience is a program of best practices for agriculture and manufacturing that promote concepts such as environmental, consumable crop safety, bio-friendly pesticides, industrial safety, and biosecurity. The Eiroas would become the first tobacco company to implement such a program Now ten years later, the Eiroa family continues to execute on these best practices and this program is an integral part to how the family approaches its business for both farming and cigar production. In addition, the tobacco operations of the Eiroa family remain the only ones to continue to follow and implement the Bayer CropScience program. It is a program that the Eiroas feel gives them a strategic advantage in the tobacco market.
The Eiroa family was well-known for owning the Camacho Cigar brand. While the Corojo farm would implement Bayer’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for its agriculture operations, Camacho would implement Bayer’s Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). After the sale to Camacho to Davidoff, former Camacho President Christian Eiroa would go on to found the CLE Cigar Company. Meanwhile Christian’s father, Julio R. Eiroa, continued to run the Corojo farm. Late in 2015, Julio asked his other son, Justo Eiroa, to join him in not only running the Corojo farm, but also to help him launch his own cigar brands under JRE Tobacco Company. The Honduran-based operations of the Corojo farm, JRE Tobacco, and CLE Cigar Company have all continued implementation of the Bayer CropScience program.
A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to visit the operations of the Eiroa’s Corojo farm and Julio Eiroa’s factory where he produces the lines for JRE Tobacco Company. It not only provided me an opportunity to see their operations from seed to shop, but it also provided me an opportunity to see the Bayer CropScience program in action.
Bayer CropScience is present from the moment you enter the Corojo farm or the factory area. In fact, as soon as I approached either area, I could not help but notice a bright green edifice. This structure serves as a disinfection station. This was a mandatory checkpoint where a series of disinfectant processes would take place before you could enter. The bright green color is indicative of the Bayer CropScience practices in action. It is present on buildings, signs, and other artifacts.
Before entering the farm or factory, each of us was required to walk through a disinfectant chamber. As each of us walked through, we were sprayed with odorless disinfectant mist.
After going through the Disinfectant Chamber, each of us headed over to a sink where we required to do a hand wash with two different types of disinfectant cleaners.
On the Corojo farm, there was an extra step. While we were all required to exit our vehicle so we could go through the Disinfectant Chamber and Handwash, our vehicle was also subject to a spraying process.
Before entering a building, such as the factory or a greenhouse at the farm, we were required to put our shoes through a disinfectant foot bath.
Another important component of the Bayer CropScience program is the establishment of an on-site medical facility. I saw two of these facilities – one on the Corojo farm and one adjacent to their factory. Bayer works with the Eiroas to set up the facilities and ensure that good medical practices are followed. The medical facilities are available to employees and their families.
Each medical facility is staffed with an on-site doctor.
There are a wide variety of medicines that are available at both the medical facility by the farm and the factory.
And walking around the Corojo farm, the presence of Bayer CropScience is quite prominent. Other practices implemented include: no eating, no drinking, no smoking, and general cleanliness.
As a part of the program, the operations are reviewed by the Bayer CropScience team on a regular basis to ensure they are being carried out in an efficient way.
By implementing Bayer CropScience practices into the operations, the Eiroas made a decision to which they believe leads to better end products – whether at the farm or the factory. From a personal standpoint, there was an extra level of satisfaction in the end products knowing that these practices are in play. From the various factories I have visited, I have not seen such a program at the level that the Eiroas are doing with Bayer CropScience.
Finally, there is a cloud of uncertainty with the premium cigar industry now subject to regulations by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). One thing was quite clear, with the practices the Eiroas have implemented at their farm and factories, I believe they may have head start over the rest of the field.
Photo Credits: Cigar Coop