The Port of Savannah is now handling grapes imported from Peru, adding to the list of cold-treated perishables using Savannah as a port of entry.
"Savannah currently handles avocados, citrus and sweet onions from Peru," said Georgia Ports Authority Executive Director Curtis Foltz. "With the introduction of Peruvian red globe grapes, we are now receiving all of the category leaders from Peru."
The grapes, moved from Andean Sun Produce farms in Ica and Piura, Peru, are part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture program, in which citrus, grapes and blueberries are chilled for at least 17 days prior to entry into the U.S. Removing potential pests via cold treatment reduces the need for pesticides.
"By landing produce in Savannah, buyers can take advantage of much shorter and faster overland transportation to Atlanta and other major markets across the U.S. Southeast," Foltz said. "This means a fresher product for end consumers as well as lower supply chain costs."
The grapes are grown along the coast of Peru with early varieties grown in the North, later ripening varieties in the Southern Peru.
"Weather conditions in Peru allows us to grow and harvest grapes throughout the year; but because of market needs our season goes from October to December in the north and from January to March in the south," said Edward Villar of Andean Sun Produce.
Andean Sun Produce, based in Miami, Fla., is the U.S. marketing agent under the "Gold Cup" brand on behalf of La Calera and Talsa, two large Peruvian growers of citrus, blue berries, avocados, grapes and mangos. For their trial run on grapes, produce wholesaler J.J. Jardina brought in the red globe variety. Matt Jardina, of the Atlanta-based company, said using the Port of Savannah saves time and freight costs.
"It is nice to have only a four-hour truck ride to Atlanta versus a day and half from the Philadelphia ports," said Jardina. "It allows us to get the product into our warehouse more quickly and begin selling the grapes a few days earlier."
Villar added that plans call for moving all the varieties they grow of red and green seedless grapes. "We will continue to use the Port of Savannah for our summer citrus season, and we are close to starting with blue berries," Villar said. Villar said he has been very pleased to add Savannah as an entry point to serve Southeastern markets.
"The GPA approached us a few months ago and explained the benefits on working with them," he said. "They have been very proactive, coordinating with CBP, trucking companies and even customers. Logistics in our business is becoming crucial; the Port of Savannah is a good alternative for us to serve not only our Georgia customers but other customers in surrounding states."
Villar said the USDA program to allow cold-treated produce to enter through more U.S. ports will relieve congestion at older ports of entry, while shortening the supply chain between producers and final consumers. "Our goal is to deliver our fruit to our clients faster, fresher, and at competitive prices, cutting logistics costs," he said.
Besides being located nearer to important Southeast markets, the Port of Savannah also offers efficient on-terminal services.
"We've worked with Customs and the USDA to ensure inspection capabilities are all in place so we can offload a vessel, inspect it and get it out in six hours," said Chris Logan, GPA senior director of Trade Development for beneficial cargo owner sales. "We're optimistic that the strong success we've had in receiving perishables will only encourage more perishables in the future."