USDA tests South American fruit programs at U.S. ports - The Packer

USDA tests South American fruit programs at U.S. ports

07/15/2014 01:34:00 PM
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Port of SavannahCourtesy Georgia Port AuthorityA pilot program with the USDA will mean grapes, blueberries and citrus fruit from South America will be allowed to be offloaded at the Port of Savannah beginning Sept. 1, provided the fruit has undergone cold treatment before arrival.Beginning Sept. 1, citrus fruit, grapes and blueberries from South America should be arriving sooner and lasting longer on retailers’ shelves in the Southeast U.S. as the Port of Savannah begins a pilot program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot program includes a chilling period of at least 17 days for the fresh fruit from South America to protect against fruit flies, according to a news release. The cold treatment will be done in the producing countries, en route on ships or at transshipment points such as Panama.

Fresh fruit from South America has traditionally been sent to Northern ports in the U.S. for cold treatment, according to Curtis Foltz, executive of the Georgia Ports Authority, who said in the release the pilot program will allow for quicker delivery to the Southeast.

That quicker delivery should mean longer shelf life and possibly better prices for retailers and consumers, Foltz said in the release.

The NOL Group’s ocean shipping arm, APL (American President Lines), uses the Port of Savannah already and anticipates increased shipments of fresh fruit as the pilot program plays out.

“Cold treatment is an environmentally-friendly alternative to fumigation-based pest control methods that emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” APL vice president for global reefer trade Eric Eng said in the release. “Its increasing acceptance by the USDA and other import authorities around the world enhances the overall viability of shipping fresh produce by sea.”

Cranes at Savannah portCourtesy Georgia Port AutnorityThe newest and largest ship-to-shore cranes at the Port of Savannah work the Nedlloyd Hudson, a Maersk vessel. The Georgia Port Authority's facilities now include 25 ship-to-shore cranes.One problem some southern ports have when it comes to shipments of chilled produce is less than adequate refrigerated warehouse space. However, Savannah’s port can temporarily store more than 2,600 refrigerated containers, according to the release.

The USDA’s deputy administrator of plant protection and quarantine, Osama El-Lissy, said in the release the agency is working with the Georgia Port Authority and the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection to monitor the cold treatment of commodities in the Savannah port pilot program.

By shipping the fruit to Savannah for inland distribution, truck-related costs and emissions can be reduced. Cliff Pyron, chief commercial officer for the Georgia Ports Authority, said in the release that post customers have been asking for delivery of fruit closer to the retail market areas of the Southeast.

A similar pilot program, initiated by USDA in October at Port Miami and Port Everglades for grapes and blueberries from Peru and Uruguay, is already considered a success by some officials. It also greatly reduces the time and distance the commodities have to spend on the road once they reach the U.S.

Abel Serrano, a customs supervisor at PortMiami, told attendees at the International Perishables Conference in Miami earlier this year that he expects the pilot program to be expanded because it has been so successful.

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Produce Guy    
Texas  |  July, 17, 2014 at 06:44 AM

Good news! It’s time to reconsider the archaic policies the USDA uses to reject produce loads coming into the country. Current laws hurt everyone by arbitrarily rejecting some containers because an “insect was found”, but allowing in 99 others that originated from the same region or even form the same field. The fact that they did not find anything on the other 99 containers means only that they did not find anything, not that they are clean. It’s a completely arbitrary system! Let’s face it, air travel, porous borders and warming temperatures are here to stay. Those are the real threat! Let’s come up with better ways to protect our crops rather than by arbitrarily (or perhaps politically motivated) preventing certain crops from entering the market. This pilot program seems like a step in the right direction.

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