Port joins program for import of fresh fruit

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The Port of Virginia has joined a pilot program that will allow blueberries, apples, grapes and pears from South America to get to grocery shelves more quickly.

In October, the port announced it had joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit, Cold Treatment Pilot program.

The program, which began in 2013, allows a limited number of containerized cargoes to enter the port directly after completing a two-week cold treatment process as a safeguard against fruit flies and other pests. It also includes the unloading clearances required prior to the shipment’s arrival in port.

The program permits entry of cold-treated containers of products originating in South America, including blueberries, citrus and grapes from Peru; blueberries and grapes from Uruguay; and apples, blueberries and pears from Argentina.

Previously, the time-sensitive shipments were required to enter Northeastern ports for cold treatment and clearance and then be transported to Southern states for distribution to stores.

The cold treatment process brings the pulps of perishable fruits to a certain temperature for a period of time to fulfill the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s requirements for fruits and vegetables entering the U.S.

Advantages of the program include lower transportation costs and longer-shelf life for shippers’ products, lower prices for consumers, and reduced carbon emissions for transit.

Other Southeast ports that have joined the program have seen some development of cold-treatment facilities, which could be a possibility for the Port of Virginia. For example, in 2016 PortFresh Logistics opened a 100,000-square-foot cold treatment facility outside of the Port of Savannah.

“We’re always looking to diversify our cargo mix, and this is one of those opportunities,” says Joe Harris, spokesman for the Port of Virginia. “We can move product over the port versus having to move out of the Northeast and into transit to the Mid-Atlantic by truck. It’s certainly an opportunity for us.”

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