Due to decades-old regulations grapes, blueberries and other perishables are currently first brought into the US through North Atlantic seaports that have cooler climates. If the pilot programme is proven successful, fruit could be shipped directly to South Florida and delivered to local grocery stores faster and at a lower cost. Additionally, the programme could be expanded to include other cold-treated perishables from these and other countries.
“Our ambition is to have this pilot programme become a success so it can be expanded to other countries and other commodities,” said Lee Sandler, international trade attorney of Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg s at a recent meeting between regulatory agencies, importers, growers, shippers and terminal operators at Port Everglades. Sandler spoke on behalf of the Florida Perishables Trade Coalition, a non-profit association that focuses the collective experience and efforts of trade, transportation and port leaders from throughout the state to increase trade in perishable products through Florida’s airports and seaports.
Sandler, with input from inspectors with the US Department of Agriculture and US Customs & Border Protection, described the steps needed to ensure the programme’s success: the key component being to protect Florida’s citrus industry from destructive fruit flies.
Some of the measures to prevent fruit-fly infestation during the pilot programme include:
- Completing the cold-treatment process before the ship arrives in port
- Packing produce in clean, residue-free marine containers
- Employing a protocol to ensure that probes and sensors for checking produce are in good working condition and approved by the county of exportation
- Transferring records electronically
- Checking seals and tailgate inspections before the container is released
Sandler cautioned that the programme is part of a “long-haul process” and a “critical step” towards expanding trade in perishables through Florida’s seaports.