The processing of “levantine” tobacco played an important role in the economy of Salento of that time, and contributed to redefine the economic and social structure of the Land of Otranto. More than 60% of its farmers, artisans and licensees owned activities linked to the cultivation and manipulation of this product.
The Prince Sebastiano Apostolico-Orsini, in a paper about “Tobacco industry in Salento”, dated 1927, wrote: “[...] This region, after forty years of efforts, using intelligence, patience, hard-work, investing capitals (hundreds of millions), has finally built a worthy industry.
Two-hundred proletarians, both women and men, find a job in this sector. [...] The whole population lives around this industry. I estimate, reasonably, that 200,000 workers are involved in the tobacco factory. [...] And they are mainly proletarians because the production and the processing of tobacco cultivated in Salento is part of the agricultural industry, the most laborious industry ever [...]”.
The organization of tobacco cultivation, from its beginning to the spread of cigarettes, has a production cycle that requires three different phases to make the product ready to be used: the agricultural phase, during which farmers used to seed, cultivate, pick and impale the leaves; the primary manufacturing phase, which goes from the manipulation of the leaves to the preparation of the raw materials, carried out by licensees in warehouses; the manufacturing (or industrial) and commercial phase, linked to the transformation done in the tobacco factories and to the sale of cigarettes to state monopolies.