Port of Virginia completes USDA’s cold-treatment pilot program clearing way for more refrigerated fruit imports
Following the successful completion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast In-Transit Cold Treatment Pilot program, importers of perishables from South American countries can now move their cargo across The Port of Virginia®, the company said in its release.
The approval coincides with the port’s effort to expand its capacity to handle refrigerated (reefer) cargo. The port is investing a combined $700 million to expand capacity at its two primary container terminals, Virginia International Gateway (VIG) and Norfolk International Terminals (NIT). The investment includes more room for refrigerated cargo at each terminal.
The port also has the capability to handle refrigerated cargo on the Richmond Express barge, which links the port’s terminals in the Norfolk Harbor to Richmond Marine Terminal (RMT) with thrice-weekly service. In 2017, the port invested in a 40-plug power unit for the barge.
In October 2017, the port began participating in the USDA’s pilot program that allowed imports of certain refrigerated fresh fruits from South America. Under the program, Virginia could import cold-treated containers of blueberries, citrus, and grapes from Peru; blueberries and grapes from Uruguay; and apples, blueberries, and pears from Argentina. The approval, which was distributed this week, is effective immediately.
In the past, these time-sensitive shipments would have come to the East Coast and moved across ports in the Northeast. Prior to the program’s start in 2013, the perishables were required to enter Northeastern ports for cold treatment and clearance and were then transported to southern states for distribution into stores.
There will be many beneficiaries of the change, Reinhart said. Shippers will see lower transportation costs and a longer shelf life for their products; consumers will see lower prices at the store; and there will be environmental benefits from reduced emissions-related transportation.
The program enables containerized imports to enter the port directly after completing a two-week cold treatment process as a safeguard against fruit flies and other pests, as well as acquiring all the required unloading clearances prior to the shipment’s arrival in port. Cold treatment is a process by which perishable fruit imports have their pulp brought to a certain temperature for a period of time in order to fulfill USDA quarantine requirements.