The first containers of imported produce to undergo cold-treatment have arrived at the Port of Savannah, carrying tangelos from Peru.
“The Georgia Ports Authority is a new, valuable option to reach the U.S. Southeast for perishable goods,” said GPA Executive Director Curtis Foltz. “By moving perishable cargo through the Port of Savannah, you can reach customers faster, save on transit costs, and take advantage of unmatched assets such as on-site inspection and the nation’s most comprehensive refrigerated cargo infrastructure.”
Matt Jardina, of the Atlanta-based company that received the tangelos, J.J. Jardina, also stressed the savings in time and freight costs. “It makes a lot of sense to use the Savannah port. It was nice to have only a four-hour truck ride to Atlanta versus a day and half from the Philadelphia ports,” said Jardina, a wholesale produce distributor. “It allowed us to get the product in our warehouse more quickly and begin selling the product a few days earlier.”
The tangelos, moved from Andean Sun Produce farms in Ica, Peru, are part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot program, in which citrus, grapes and blueberries are chilled for at least 17 days prior to entry into the U.S. to protect against harmful insects. Removing potential pests via cold treatment reduces the need for pesticides.
The process may be done in producing countries – including Peru, Chile and Brazil – or at transshipment points such as Panama. The fruit will move in refrigerated containers held just over freezing during transit aboard cargo vessels, effectively cutting the time fruit must remain stationary for treatment.
“The importation of citrus products after successful cold-treatment while in-route from South America highlights U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s commitment to working with federal, state, and trade stakeholders,” said CBP Savannah Area Port Director Lisa Beth Brown. “These combined efforts resulted in successful innovation and trade facilitation without compromise to CBP’s mission to protect domestic agriculture from potential introduction of harmful pests and disease.”
Jardina said reducing transit time by bringing produce in through Savannah improves quality and freshness for consumers. “If you are dealing with a commodity that has a short shelf life then it’s certainly better to have a couple of extra days to get the product in your customers’ hands,” he said. “This will optimize the freshness of the product all the way to the consumer. “
Nelly Yunta, vice president of Customized Brokers, which brought the cargo to Savannah, said the choice to use GPA came down to market proximity and customer service. “The Port of Savannah was a strategic decision for the pilot program not only because of its convenient location, but because of its eagerness to bring the program online there,” Yunta said. “They put in a lot of effort to make it happen, and already have processes in place to handle the new cargo efficiently. Citrus shippers will ultimately benefit from this new location, regardless of who they choose as a carrier. It’s a good thing for the Southeastern region.”
Streamlined logistics are crucial in the produce business, said Ernest Bernales, commercial manager for Procesador Laran S.A.C., a grower for Andean Sun.
“We need to deliver our fruit to our clients faster and cheaper, directly from our farms,” said Bernales. “The Port of Savannah allows us to better serve our Georgia clients and others.”
Savannah’s Garden City Terminal offers 94 refrigerated container racks and 733 chassis plug-ins, powering 2,989 refrigerated boxes at a time. Another 10 racks should be complete by spring, adding 240 refrigerated container slots.
“Savannah meets all the program requirements and has all the infrastructure in place to cater to refrigerated cargo,” Yunta added. “After proving that they could fulfill all the links of the cold chain — including the proper relationships with port authorities, government agencies, trucking companies, warehouses, etc. — we were confident they were going to deliver for shippers.”
With more than 722,000 square feet of private cold storage surrounding the port, the GPA and private industry have the infrastructure to support the growing cold cargo business moving through Georgia.
Besides faster delivery, the USDA program also cuts logistics-related emissions by reducing truck miles and allowing more efficient shipments. Previously, deliveries of South American produce were made to Northern U.S. ports, and then trucked down to states like Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
“Ocean delivery to Savannah means cargoes ranging from fruits to seafood reach fast-growing Southeastern markets faster and fresher,” said GPA Chief Commercial Officer Cliff Pyron. “While exports such as poultry account for most of GPA’s frozen cargo, refrigerated imports are expanding as more food producers choose the Port of Savannah to reach markets such as Atlanta, Charlotte and Memphis.”