The Port of Norfolk has added refrigerated container space at the Norfolk International Terminals facility. ( Courtesy Port of Virginia )

The Port of Virginia, Norfolk, expects to see imports of fruit from South America increase with the completion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot program.

“We’re the U.S. East Coast’s leading vegetable exporter, and this designation positions us to achieve the same success with imported fruit,” John Reinhart, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, said in a news release. “This is important for logistics and supply chain managers importing agricultural products because it means this cargo will get to its market more quickly.”

Through the USDA program, which the port joined in October 2017, refrigerated fruit from South America can enter the port. The program includes containers of blueberries, citrus and grapes from Peru; blueberries and grapes from Uruguay; and apples, blueberries and pears from Argentina, according to the release.

The USDA gave its approval to the port this week.

The program allows South American fruit to enter more ports in the U.S., following a two-week cold treatment process to guard against pests. Before the program started in 2013, fruit from certain export markets were limited to Northeast ports, according to the release. From there, they were distributed to southern states.

The new port of entry will cut transportation costs and increase fruit shelf life, according to the release.

Other participants in the USDA program include ports in Wilmington, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Port Everglades, Fla.; Palmetto, Fla., Jacksonville, Fla.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Savannah, Ga.