From the beliefs and rituals of the indigenous peoples, tobacco became the most important non-food agricultural product on the planet. The use of tobacco products in all their forms (snuff, straw cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, roll-your-own, etc.), goes back to times well before the existence of the present-day cigarette manufacturers.
With its origins in the Andes, tobacco followed the migrations of the Indians throughout Central America, until it arrived in Brazil.
The first tobacco fields were farmed by colonists for their own consumption. Soon, however, many people appeared who were willing to buy the excess until finally, in Europe, demand grew and many businesspeople started to visualize the tremendous possibilities for profit that would come from the creation of a regular tobacco supply chain.
Initially, the production of tobacco in Brazil occupied small, concentrated areas between Salvador and Recife in the Recôncavo Baiano, an exceptionally fertile area along the coast of the state of Bahia. In the first half of the 17th century, during the Dutch occupation of Pernambuco, the tobacco produced in that area had an important role among the products offered by the West Indies Company. With the expulsion of the Dutch, the first regulatory legislation of tobacco production began to appear. In 1674, the colony’s monopoly was guaranteed through creation of the Tobacco Administration Board, the decisions of which established the rules regarding tobacco for all Portuguese colonies.
By the end of the 17th century, one piece of legislation attempted to regulate tobacco commerce based on controlling transported cargoes due to the vast size and diversity of the growing areas, creating special regulations and agencies such as the Tobacco Inspection Board. From this date on, legislation was finally stabilized and remained in force until after Brazilian independence. The end of the supervised freedom that Portugal imposed on Brazil during the colonial period gave significant impetus to tobacco farmers. It became possible to grow any species, anywhere. Further, the possibility of direct commerce with foreign countries was a great incentive. At that time, effectively beginning in 1850, the provinces that stood out in tobacco production were Minas Gerais, Bahia and, due to German immigration, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.
In 1917 the Brazilian Tobacco Corporation was set up in Santa Cruz do Sul (RS). The company was established by the British company, British American Tobacco, and was the first step in the transformation of the city into a national centre for the tobacco industry. In 1920 the company changed its name to “Companhia Brasileira de Fumo em Folha” (Brazilian Tobacco Leaf Company) and in 1955 it was acquired by Souza Cruz.