Commerce with Canada has some limitations

11/18/2011 10:28:00 AM
David Mitchell

It’s only a few miles to Canada — either by bridge or by tunnel — from the Detroit Produce Terminal.

Although plenty of Canadian greenhouse product moves through the terminal market going into the U.S., some Detroit distributors are reluctant to transport product across the border in the other direction.

“Everyone here has a deal with at least one Canadian shipper,” said Brandon Serra, salesman for Serra Bros. Inc. “You can have it the next day, and it’s quality product.”

Serra, however, said he tries to avoid shipping into Canada.

“You have to deal with the border,” he said. “If I can sell it to someone else and let them deal with it, why wouldn’t I? Some of our customers come down from Canada. I can put it on their truck, and they deal with the paperwork, not me.”

Produce buyer and salesman Dominic Russo said Rocky Produce Inc., Detroit, has always done business with Canadian customers.

“For the most part, our customers come here, so they handle the paper work,” he said. “We have sent trucks there. As long as you have your paperwork in order and do things properly, it goes well.”

More than a fourth of all trade between the U.S. and Canada crosses the Ambassador Bridge, the 7,500-foot, four-lane road over the Detroit River that links the city to Windsor, Ontario.

About 10,000 commercial vehicles cross the bridge every weekday, making it the busiest U.S.-Canada crossing. The nearly mile-long Detroit–Windsor Tunnel is the second-busiest crossing.

Bridge tolls range from $2.75 to $4.50 per axle, depending on the class of vehicle. Trucks using the tunnel pay 30 cents per 100 pounds.

Michigan and Canadian officials are discussing plans for a second bridge, which would be funded by tax payers, to compete with the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge.

R.A.M. Produce Distributors, Detroit, sources tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from Canadian greenhouse growers, said salesman Michael Badalament.

The company also ships product to Canadian customers.

“We do really good business in Canada,” he said. “It’s pretty strong.”

Heeren Bros. Inc., Grand Rapids, Mich., also sources product from Canada, said president Jim Heeren.

The company delivers to customers in a 275-mile radius, including Michigan’s upper peninsula, Indiana and Ohio, but its trucks don’t cross the border.

“Time-wise,” he said, “we just can’t do it.”

Rick Robinson, vice president, of White Brokerage Co., Detroit, said changes to border security since Sept. 11, 2001, have not made border crossings too cumbersome.

In fact, he said the process is easier than it used to be because of improvements in technology.

“We do a fair amount into Canada,” he said. “It’s gotten easier over the years because of computers and faxes.”



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