Port improvements should boost fresh produce movement

09/08/2009 04:20:26 PM
Doug Ohlemeier

PHILADELPHIA — Produce movement at one of the leading U.S. ports remains strong.

Unloadings at the Philadelphia Regional Port Authority have increased for one importer.

The go-ahead for a Delaware River deepening project is supposed to help boost import volume, distributors report.

The slowing economy, however, has affected fruit and vegetable movement.

Cargo movement is reported to be on a slow but continued improvement, said Joseph Menta, a port spokesman.

According to Menta, the port as of this spring handled 136,740 metric tons of fruit products, a 52% increase over the 90,172 tons of the same cargo handled by the same point in 2008.
 
That volume is down from previous years but relates more to the overall economic decline, not cargo entering other ports, Menta said.

The Philadelphia region remains big in ports, said Mike Maxwell, president of Procacci Bros. Sales Corp., which imports and distributes many Southern Hemisphere commodities.

“Imports will get bigger and bigger as our thirst for produce continues,” he said. “The port has geared up for many years to increase movement. It has won one of many battles to come. Everyone is thinking of dredging the river to make it accommodate larger ships, which will bring better synergies.”

Working through importers, Procacci imports numerous containers of produce from South America yearly.

In April, an Army Corps of Engineers environmental assessment concluded a proposed deepening of the Delaware River would not significantly adversely affect the river’s environment.

The port authority said the assessment confirms that the project’s environmental effects have been thoroughly studied and that the project should bring high-paying jobs to the region.

The $379 million project would deepen the Delaware River’s main shipping channel from 40 feet to 45 feet.

Mark Levin, co-owner of bananas and tropicals importer M. Levin & Co. Inc., said the project should help boost business and that bigger ships would transport additional or different types of produce from different regions of the world.

“It will bring in more commerce to the area as well as the fact that Philadelphia seems to be a hub for that kind of activity,” he said. “We have a big traffic pattern here. From I-95, we can be in Toronto in 10 hours and Florida in 14 hours. There’s a lot of trucking transportation centers here because we’re centrally located to the action.”
 
Since 2006, Levin has begun importing tropicals such as coconuts, plantains, yucca and chayote.


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