by Tad Thompson | March 11, 2014
RIO RICO, AZ — Upon becoming a produce grower in 1960, Malu Crespo’s grandfather, Jorge Crespo, chose not to become a mango grower “because it was too easy,” said Malu.
“He said, ‘You have a big tree that you water. Then you harvest and take the mangos to the packing shed. It is too easy.’”
“When we were in the peak season, my father used to say, ‘If your grandpa would have known all the hard work we need to do to export the mangos, trust me, he would have exported mangos!’“ Malu noted in late February.
But, Jorge Crespo chose to be a chili pepper grower. The chilies needed to be re-seeded with the beginning of each season. And then nurtured from there. Jorge Crespo had a successful chili business. He passed away in 1985.
The Rio Rico, AZ, office of Malu Crespo, president of R.C.F Produce Inc., is filled with pictures telling the story of her family’s business growth.
The family remains strong in chilies, but 1986 the family became a major mango packer through the creation of Empaque Don Jorge in El Rosario, Sinaloa. The Crespo family is a grower and Empaque Don Jorge packs three million boxes of mangoes in a short three-month summer season.
About 40 percent of that volume belongs to the Crespo family and the remainder is packed on contract for other growers. R.C.F. is the company’s primary brand. According to Malu Crespo, this is Latin America’s largest mango packinghouse.
She added the interesting note that Rosario is an old mining town, which once boomed with gold and silver.
In 1992, Empaque Don Jorge began exporting. Today the company ships through the United States to New Zealand and exports via Tamaulipas to Rotterdam and on the customers in Germany, Spain, Holland, France, Belgium and England.
In 1996, Jorge Crespo’s son, Roberto Crespo Fitch founded R.C.F Produce Inc., in Rio Rico to import Mexican fruits and vegetables throughout the U.S. market.
Today, mangos represent half the total shipping volume of R.C.F.
In 2000, Roberto saw an opportunity to open a R.C.F shipping office in McAllen, TX.
Malu Crespo managed Empaque Don Jorge from 1998 until 2001, when she moved to Rio Rico and became the R.C.F. president. She also runs the San Diego, CA, office that opened in March 2013.
On Feb. 25, 2007, her father, Roberto died of cancer.
“My mom, Maria De La Luz Duran, became the president of the Crespo Group after my father passed away in 2007,” Malu noted.
Her younger brother Jose Angel Crespo works in R.C.F.’s McAllen office, and her other two brothers, Roberto Crespo and Jorge Crespo run the harvest, growing and packing operation in El Rosario, Sinaloa.
“I’m very proud of my team because without them R.C.F. can’t be the same,” Malu said.
In the mango business, in mid-February this year, R.C.F. started shipping Ataulfo’s from Chiapas and Oaxaca states in southern Mexico.
The company’s mango harvest will move to southern Sinaloa in May, with Tommy Atkins, Kent, Hayden and Keitt varieties.
Manila is an interesting variety in Mexico because it is so sweet and very popular within Mexico’s domestic market. Commercially, “it doesn’t handle hot water treatment well,” Malu Crespo noted.
The season will end in northern Sinaloa, which is designated by USDA phytosanitary experts as fruit fly free, thus that fruit does not need hot water treatment.
In December, R.C.F. for the first time experimented with extending its season by importing a couple loads of Ecuadoran mangoes. “There are a lot of costs” in that process, she noted.
Beyond mangoes and chilies, R.C.F. is a shipper of tomatoes, watermelon, oranges, grapefruit, Murcotts, Persian limes and lemons. The firm also offers pineapples chayote squash, avocado and onions.
Malu Crespo said that all of the products shipped by her family meet strict food-safety certification standards.