The Port of Savannah plans to receive South American fruit through a U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot program allowing imports of cold-treated commodities.

Savannah port to import cold-treated South American fruitScheduled to begin Sept. 1, the Savannah, Ga., port will be authorized to accept commodities from Peru and Brazil that have undergone cold treatment.

Brazil and Peru grapes and Peru blueberries and citrus, including mandarins, tangelos, clementines, tangerines, grapefruit and sour limes, are to be allowed, according to a news release.

The cold treatment process prevents the transmission of agricultural pests and last year, the USDA approved a similar program for cold-treated Peru and Uruguay blueberries and grapes into Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the Port of Miami.

Jacksonville, Fla.-based Crowley Maritime Corp. Inc., imports produce and other commodities through the south Florida ports and ports in Jacksonville, Pennsauken, N.J., and Gulfport, Miss.

Nelly Yunta, general manager of Miami-based Customized Brokers, a Crowley subsidiary, said the test program should help increase produce movement.

She said the Savannah port doesn’t handle much produce and said the program is the next logical step to complement cold treatment conducted at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport.

“The port is looking to grow their perishables imports because they export a lot of poultry and refrigerated cargo,” Yunta said. “It will be a good thing for them to generate business coming in.”

Crowley is organizing a September visit of a group of governmental officials and importers and receivers to examine the port’s infrastructure and view the process, she said.

Containers that fail cold treatment will be prohibited from entering the port and will not be offloaded from vessels but will be allowed to ship via sea to a northeastern port for retreatment or be returned to the country of origin, according to the release.

The Savannah program does not affect existing preclearance programs for Peru blueberries and grapes, according to the release.

While South American fruit destined to customers in the Southeast has traditionally been shipped to northern U.S. ports, the addition of Savannah could reduce truck delivery times and allow fresher offerings for stores and longer shelf life for consumers, Curtis Foltz, Georgia Ports Authority’s executive director, said in another news release.

The port plans to work closely with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection to evaluate the application of cold treatment and to monitor its progress, according to the release.