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BEBO entering ‘next level’

PHARR, TX — In 1988, BEBO Distributing Co., Inc. started business as an exporter to the Mexican market. Stone fruit, apples, grapes and pears grown in the United States were key distribution items for the firms.

A massive devaluation of the Mexican peso in December 1994 forced a radical change in the firm’s produce industry role.

The shift to importing Mexican product was a success, to say the least.

Jimmy Garza, vice president of the firm, noted: “At BEBO we are on the verge of really taking the company to the next level. Our warehouse has grown 20,000 square feet in the last year. We will continue to expand with different retailers and we will have different commodities.

Jimmy-Garza-Bebo2Vice President of BEBO Distributing Co. Jimmy Garza.“We are a second-generation, predominantly-vegetable grower-shipper distributor,” Garza said. “It’s a family-owned-and-operated Texas-based company.”

BEBO’s primary business is import Mexican hothouse vegetables. Its core items, which account for 80 percent of sales, are tomatoes, colored bell peppers, eggplant and cucumbers.

BEBO handles “tomatillos in big volume for processors.”

A small percentage of its product is Texas-grown. This includes 250 acres of Texas onions.

Traditionally BEBO has imported produce grown in San Luis Potosi and the Bahia region. This year for the first time BEBO is sourcing from Eduardo Leyson, a premium eggplant grower in Culiacan. Leyson’s firm, Agricultores de San Isidro Navolato, S.A. de C.V., will finish its deal in mid-April.

In January, BEBO shipped Brussels sprouts for the first time. This San Luis Potosi product “had a good little niche. I feel the popularity of Brussels sprouts has real potential.”

BEBO operates its own greenhouses in Mexico, which are located just across the Rio Grande from the Val Verde Vegetable Co. Inc., in McAllen. With that proximity, “we harvest and it’s in retail stores the next day,” Garza said. “We pack there and can repack and put on the final touches here” at the modern Pharr warehouse.

Garza added “we look to touch every package. You have to tweak it and assure it’s right.” This is especially true for assuring the right tomato color.

Speaking in general terms of the south Texas produce industry, Garza said: “We are well-positioned across the country. We have warehouses up and down the Rio Grande valley. We have been able to see this grow over the years.”

In the valley, he said citrus production is an anchor, and “it’s anchoring so many commodities.”

Competition in the Rio Grande Valley has escalated with the arrival of more firms “and competition is good. It gives us an opportunity to showcase the area and this shipping point,” Garza said.

At one time buyers would bypass Texas in their annual buying pattern and, as the seasons rotated, “would go straight from Florida to California.” Freight costs and other advantages have now placed Texas more firmly on the produce industry map, Garza said.