A group of business leaders and government officials recently gathered at the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in South Philadelphia to mark the arrival of the first shipment of fresh citrus from Uruguay into America.
The first shipment was made possible due to a ruling by the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that allowed entrance of Uruguayan citrus into the US due to improved regulation of potential contamination by foreign species, bacteria and pesticides.
Officials from the Uruguayan Embassy to the US, City of Philadelphia, USDA and APHIS, as well as executives from Holt Logistics Corp., Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, UPEFRUY (Uruguayan Growers and Exporters Union) and other importer/exporters gathered dockside to celebrate the arrival of the fruit. A short presentation and reception was held while shipping containers full of fresh Valencia oranges were loaded onto cargo trucks, which were sent to local distribution centers.
“We are proud to mark this historic occasion for our fellow countrymen,” said Minister Ricardo Baluga, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Uruguay. “This first shipment of citrus marks nearly 19 years of hard work and negotiations between the United States and Uruguay. We have reached new levels of safety and look forward to expanding our offerings of affordable, high quality Uruguayan produce in the US and abroad.”
“When Uruguayan officials chose Philadelphia as the first port of call, they demonstrated an awareness of the importance of our city as a capital of trade and in building strong relationships when working in the global business climate,” said Leo A. Holt, President of Holt Logistics Corp. “Our strategic location, with extensive transportation infrastructure and access to over 100 million people within a day’s drive, makes our port ideal for any exporter looking to tap into the US market. We are eager to expand this exciting new pipeline of goods into the US.”
USDA regulations prohibit or restrict the importation of fruits and vegetables into the United States from certain parts of the world to prevent the introduction and dissemination of plant pests that are new to or not widely distributed within the United States. The market opening between the US and Uruguay is based on scientific risk assessments associated with the introduction of potential pests on citrus imports from Uruguay. For this reason, the citrus shipments from Uruguay to USA must have a prior treatment to mitigate this risk, and there are a number of health and packing requirements that must be met to enter the US market. Uruguayan agricultural officials have been working with US regulators for several years to improve control over pests and ensure safe import of Uruguayan fruit.
In order to provide an appropriate level of phytosanitary protection, several regulations were put into place by Uruguayan authorities. These include:
• The fruit must be imported only in commercial shipments
• The Uruguayan national plant protection organization (NPPO) must provide a work plan to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that details the activities that the Uruguayan NPPO will, subject to APHIS’ approval of the work plan, carry out to meet the proposed requirements
• Pest monitoring and control practices must be conducted• The • • Uruguayan grove sanitation and packinghouse procedures must be designed to eliminate the pests of concern
• The fruit must be treated in accordance with regulations outlined in the Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) Treatment Manual
• Deliveries of citrus fruit from Uruguay will be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate with an additional declaration stating that the fruit in the consignment is free of all pests of concern and has been produced in agreement with the requirements of the systems approach
The ruling allowing for the import was made effective on August 9, 2013 and work immediately began to bring the first shipment to the Port of Philadelphia. The event marks the end of nearly 19 years of work to bring Uruguayan citrus to the United States.
“This is excellent news for the Port of Philadelphia,” said Philadelphia Regional Port Authority (PRPA) Chairman Charles G. Kopp. “Thanks to an effective working relationship between Holt Logistics, PRPA, our friends in Uruguay, USDA, and other stakeholders in the port district, these fine citrus products from Uruguay will now regularly move through our Port and be greatly enjoyed by American consumers. This is a big win for everyone.”