$65 per cwt pintos
April 24, 2003
In a grocery store in Albuquerque, N.M., Montelores Pinto Beans were selling this winter for the equivalent of approximately $65 per cwt.
But Rod Tanner, whose family has processed, packaged and sold Montelores Pinto Beans throughout the southwest for 60 years, says the business isn't as good as it seems.
His Midland Bean Company, of Dove Creek, Colo., sells 100,000 to 150,000 cwt of Montelores annually in 1-, 2-, 4-, 8-, 20- and 1000-pound bags.
He says his company received approximately half of the $12.99 that grocers were charging this winter for a 20-pound bag.
Midland Bean Co. is a small player in the southwest market, according to Tanner. Several other companies have the lion's share of the market and sell through chains such as Wal-Mart and Safeway.
Pintos that qualify for Midland Montelores brand are hard to come by, too, Tanner says.
Montelores are grown in southwest Colorado in fields at an elevation of 7,000 feet. The beans are exceptionally high quality with a bright colored seed coat. But the dryland fields average only 400 pounds per acre. Many of the dry bean farms have been idled in the Conservation Reserve Program. In 2002, drought wiped out the southwestern Colorado crop and Midland had to buy beans from other parts of the state to supply customers. But Tanner hasn't found beans from other sources that equal Montelores quality.
"We have such a dry climate that the beans don't darken after harvest," he says.
Southwest demand remains strong for packaged beans due to immigration from Mexico. But the younger generation isn't willing to spend several hours cooking a pot of beans, he says.
It may seem as if there is plenty of room for grower and processor profits in pintos that grocers sell for $65 per cwt., but Midland Bean Company's margins are small.
"I don't see anybody beating down my door wanting this business," Tanner says.
Twenty-pound bags of beans for $12.99
attract attention in an Albuquerque, N.M.,