A new program at Port Everglades could help increase imports of South American fruit through South Florida seaports.
State and federal agencies are working to finalize a program to import blueberries and grapes from Peru and Uruguay into Port Everglades and the Port of Miami starting in October.
The permit to proceed is expected to be approved in August, according to a news release from Port Everglades.
Because of the cooler northern climates, decades-old regulations require grapes, blueberries and other perishables to first arrive in the U.S. through North Atlantic ports, according to the release.
If the program is successful, fruit could be shipped directly to south Florida ports and delivered to grocery stores faster and at a lower cost, according to the release.
The program could also be expanded to include other perishables, according to the release.
“Our ambition is to have this pilot become a success so it can be expanded to other countries and other commodities,” Lee Sandler, an international trade attorney, recently said at a meeting of importers, growers, and other stakeholders, according to the release.
Sandler spoke for the Florida Perishables Trade Coalition, which is working with U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspectors.
A key component to making the program successful involves protecting Florida’s citrus industry from destructive fruit flies, Sandler said in the release.
Other things to prevent fruit fly infestation include completing the cold-treatment process before the ship arrives in port and packing produce in clean, residue-free marine containers, according to the release.