NOGALES, AZ — “We specialize in beans,” said Harry Sbragia, president of JMB Distributing Inc., here. “Beans is our main line. It is not a side line.”
The company has handled squash and other products over the years as well, but has focused on beans for the last few years. It announced last year that it will specialize exclusively in fresh beans — green beans and other types as well.
“We try to put up ... the best bean in North America” on a consistent basis, Mr. Sbragia said Nov. 8. “We have very good quality.”
The beans are grown in Guasave in northern Sinaloa, Mexico, by a grower JMB has worked with for more than 10 years, and they are packed in one of two JMB house labels — either “Top Seven” or “Royal Gem.”
“We tend to be pretty consistent in how much acreage we grow,” Mr. Sbragia said. “We figure we can do about so many and do a good job for ourselves and for the growers and still give the trade a decent price, so we try to arrive at a balance.”
A concept the company has always tried to go by, he said, is for everyone involved in the deal to make some money in the process. “We want [the customer] to make money. We want to make a little money. The grower needs to make a little money.” If any one of three is losing money, it is not good for anybody.
A water shortage in southern Sinaloa this year is having some effect on production. Due partly to a shortage of rainfall in the watersheds and partly to the replanting of cornfields lost to frost in early 2011, “the reservoirs are only 25 to 35 percent full,” Mr. Sbragia noted. Corn “takes a lot of water ... so they drained those reservoirs down pretty well.” As a result, the water restrictions are pretty heavy this year. But “I think vegetable growers are going to be given the nod over some of the grain growers,” even though world markets for grain and corn are strong and “the risk is a lot less,” he said.
About half of JMB’s bean acreage us under drip irrigation, which greatly reduces water consumption. “We do have surface water,” he said. “But we depend on our drip line, and that has given us a lot of plusses,” not only in reducing water use but improving quality, controlling germination and controlling insects.
With regard to insect control, “we are doing something this year that I think is great,” Mr. Sbragia said. “We are using an insecticide,” but one with “a very short life,” and applying that early. “Then we are using soap in a sprayer,” he said. That’s just “ordinary soap, from Costco” added to 50 or 100 gallons of water, and spraying it on the fields. “We can cover, with the machine we’ve got, about 120 acres a day,” he said. The soap needs to be applied about every 10 days, but it does discourage the insects.
JMB is continuing the process of upgrading all of its facilities in Mexico in accordance with U.S. Food & Drug Administration food-safety guidelines, through third-party certification, he said.
Otherwise, not much has changed at JMB, Mr. Sbragia continued. “Same time, same station, same people, same warehouse.
The company’s warehouse facility in Nogales has moisture-controlled cold rooms to maintain the crispness and freshness of the products. “We maintain our temperatures at 40 to 42 degrees.” In fact, the products are maintained at the appropriate cool temperatures all the way from the production area, he noted.
On sales at JMB along with Mr. Sbragia are his son, Rick Sbragia, and Abel Garcia.
“We want everybody’s business,” Mr. Sbragia said. “We are going to do whatever we need to do to keep it going. We are going to try to maintain our quality and hold our reputation and give everybody a good deal.”