Port Strikes, Bad Weather Affect Blueberry Shipments

Port strikes in South America, then heavy rains once the strikes were resolved are definitely affecting blueberry imports this season.

Nelly Yunta, vice president of sales, marketing and customer care, liner and logistics business groups for Crowley Maritime Corporation in Jacksonville, Fla., and vice president of Customized Brokers, the customs brokerage and consulting division located in Miami, recently told The Produce News that the port strikes in South America are definitely affecting exports this season.

“Very few lines could offer an option via [the port of] Valparaiso,” said Yunta. “Hamburg Süd Liner Services was one of them, but there were shortages of capacity or equipment. Some of that product had to be shipped via air or sold in local markets. But after the strikes were over, heavy rain became a factor in the south, affecting the quality of the blueberries.”

“The Chilean blueberry season is now starting to wind down,” Yunta added. “While there was some confusion in regards to new protocol at the beginning of the seasonal movement, things have gotten better and fumigations are taking place without any issues.

“In fact, there are now more options in South Florida where we can offer fumigation inside containers or in chambers,” she continued. “We’ll continue to work with the coalition to see how we can help the industry in the future.”

Early in 2013, Customized Brokers opened Crowley Fresh in Miami. The facility features multiple humidity- and temperature-controlled coolers. It stores and handles perishables imported from or exported to Latin America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia and the Far East.

It also recently handled the first shipment of Uruguayan citrus coming to Philadelphia after many years of restrictions. And the company was clearing the first shipment of cold treated grapes coming to Port Miami in earlier February.

“As board members of the Florida Perishable Trade Coalition, we are committed to continue working with the industry to facilitate trade while ensuring we maintain the integrity of our domestic agriculture,” Yunta noted.

The company’s streamlined process refers to its state-of-the-art, web-based systems that allow customers to track the status of their cargo 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week.

“Fresh produce is time-sensitive,” Yunta said. “It has a short shelf life. Having a streamlined processing facilitates the release and distribution of our customers’ cargo. Our team maintains strong relationships with various government entities.”

Those agencies include the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Crowley’s personnel regularly receives training from these organizations that help facilitate processing. Several of its staff members attend FDA, USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service, Customs and Border Protection and meetings, seminars, webinars and other educational venues. These staff member then train the rest of the company’s staff.

“Maintaining a strong relationship with the U.S. government makes it easier to find solutions for our customers’ importing needs,” said Yunta. “It’s easier to rectify any potential issues that may arise with the USDA, for example. We are involved in all levels of movement of the fresh produce. We do it all, from A to Z; from booking at point of origin to final delivery.

“We have local representation in Miami, Port Everglades, New York, Philadelphia, Newark, Houston and Los Angeles,” she continued. “However, we are able to clear within any port in the United States, including Puerto Rico.”

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