Officials from Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet International were among those in attendance for the first-ever arrival of fresh citrus from Uruguay.

The first load of valencias arrived at South Philadelphia’s Packer Avenue Marine Terminal Nov. 18. In July, the U.S. Department of Agriculture published a final rule allowing the importation of Uruguayan citrus. The effective date for the rule was Aug. 9.

Others in attendance Nov. 18 were officials from the Uruguayan Embassy to the U.S., the City of Philadelphia and USDA; and executives from Holt Logistics, the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, UPEFRUY (Uruguayan Growers and Exporters Union) and other importers.

“This day has been long-awaited, and we are so excited to see our years of hard work finally come to fruition,” Mayda Sotomayor, Seald Sweet’s chief executive officer, said in a news release. “The quality of citrus from Uruguay is outstanding, and the availability of certain commodities nicely complements our existing citrus programs.”

Adding Uruguay to its mix will help Seald Sweet continue to grow the citrus category with year-round availability, Sotomayor said.

Bruce McEvoy, director of global affairs for Seald Sweet and the UNIVEG Group, played a central role in lobbying for Uruguayan exports to the U.S.

“It’s been a very long journey. Lots of patience was needed along the way,” McEvoy said at the Nov. 18 event, according to the news release. “Over the years, I can recall meeting with three of the former presidents of Uruguay, with four ministers of agriculture, and with ambassadors on both sides, U.S. and Uruguay.”