The arrival of the first containers of imported cold-treated produce at the Port of Savannah this month marks a step forward by the Georgia Ports Authority to attract more imports to balance out its predominant exports.
The containers carrying tangelos from farms in Ica, Peru, are part of a U.S. Agricultural Department pilot program permitting entry of citrus, grapes and blueberries that are chilled for at least 17 days before arriving in the U.S. The cold treatment is necessary to reduce the need for pesticides.
The agricultural department approved in March the port’s ability to accept commodities from Peru and Brazil that have undergone cold treatment under a program already in effect at several ports including those of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and Miami.
Nelly Yunta, general manager of Miami-based Customized Brokers, said at the time of the pilot program’s announcement that the Savannah port would benefit from imports to balance its exports of poultry and refrigerated cargo.
To be approved for the pilot program, the Savannah port had to show that it could fulfill all the links of the cold chain including proper relationships with port authorities, government agencies trucking companies, and warehouses.
According to an Oct. 12 Georgia Ports Authority news release, the cold-treatment process may be done in producing countries including Peru, Chile and Brazil, or at transshipment points such as Panama.
Curtis Foltz, the executive director of the authority, said in the release that the advantages of moving perishable cargo through the Savannah port included reaching customers faster, saving on transit costs and taking advantage of on-site inspection capabilities.
In the past, South American fruit destined for customers in the Southeast traditionally has been shipped to northern U.S. ports and then trucked to Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
“It makes a lot of sense to use the Savannah port,” Matt Jardina of the family-owned J.J. Jardina Company Inc. that received the tangelos, said. “It was nice to have only a four-hour truck ride to Atlanta versus a day and a half from the Philadelphia ports.”
“It allowed us to get the product in our warehouse more quickly and begin selling the product a few days earlier,” he added. J.J. Jardina is located at the Atlanta State Farmer’s Market using a 30,000-square-foot warehouse.
According to the ports authority, there are more than 722,000 square feet of private cold storage surrounding the port. Savannah’s Garden City Terminal has 84 refrigerated container racks with 20 more to be completed by the end of the year.