South American Produce Imports on Way to Port of Virginia
Importers of perishables from South America can now move their cargo across The Port of Virginia as the port is now a participant of the US Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot program.
Virginia is the newest member of a pilot that is designed to import fresh fruit to US East Coast ports from South America. The pilot allows entry of in-transit, cold-treated containers of agricultural products originating in South America, including blueberries, citrus, and grapes from Peru; blueberries and grapes from Uruguay; and, apples, blueberries and pears from Argentina.
Port Tampa Bay, and Port Manatee are among the other ports participating in the program. The pilot program was initiated in fall 2013 with allowance of imports of cold-treated grapes and blueberries from Peru and Uruguay into ports of South Florida’s Miami Dade and Broward counties.
“This designation is important for logistics and supply chain managers importing agricultural products because it means shorter total transit times from origin to market,” said John F. Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “This helps to diversify our cargo mix. It opens the door for new cargo and provides an important service for owners and shippers of perishables. This helps to support our strategic growth plan and further establishes The Port of Virginia as a global gateway.”
In the past, these time-sensitive shipments would have come to the East Coast and moved across ports in the northeast. Prior to the program’s start in 2013, the perishables were required to enter northeast ports for cold treatment and clearance and were then transported to southern states for distribution into stores.
There will be many beneficiaries of the change, Reinhart said. Shippers will see lower transportation costs and a longer shelf-life for their products; consumers will see lower prices at the store; and there will be environmental benefits from reduced emissions related transportation.
The USDA Southeast In-transit Cold Treatment Pilot enables a limited number of containerized cargoes to enter the port directly after completing a two-week cold treatment process as a safeguard against fruit flies and other pests, as well as acquiring all the required unloading clearances prior to the shipment’s arrival in port.
Cold treatment is a process whereby perishable fruits have their pulp brought to a certain temperature for a period of time in order to fulfill USDA quarantine requirements for fruits and vegetables entering the US. Containers that do not pass cold treatment will be prohibited from entering the port and will not be offloaded from vessels. Instead, failed containers will be allowed transit via sea to a northeast port for retreatment, or, they will be re-exported to the country of origin.