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Miami has taken yet another step in cementing its position as the leading perishables hub in the US by opening a certified cold treatment facility at the port.

To be compliant with rules to prevent fruit fly infestation, citrus and other fruit importers must prove that fruit has been kept at 1.1 °C for at least 14 days. Under a pilot programme at the new Miami Plant Inspection Station (MPIS), blueberries and grapes from Uruguay and Peru can now be treated at Miami rather than going to Philadelphia.

The programme has been driven by the Florida Customs Brokers & Freight forwarders Association (FBCF) and law firm Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg. “Although there had been concern that the MPIS would be affected by the recent federal government shut down, this was in fact not so, as the authorities recognised that perishables could not wait,” said Hilda Rodriguez, the recently appointed president of the FBCF, at the recent Air and Sea Cargo Americas Exhibition in Miami.

In the next phase the system will be extended to include other perishable fruit varieties from Chile and Colombia, added Barbara Pimentel, the FBCF’s executive vice president. And, according to Miami Port, it could be expanded further to include citrus from elsewhere in the world.

“There is no reason why in the future, citrus from South Africa couldn’t also be included in the list of cold treatment commodities,” noted Eric Olfason, Miami Port’s manager intergovernmental affairs. Such a move would allow importers who want to provide year-round citrus to use Miami rather than Philadelphia – so long  as there is no seasonal overlap with Florida citrus, he added.

Miami is a key perishables hub for the US. Not only is it the closest port of entry into the US for South American shippers, but cargo can reach 23% of the US population in two days. Miami has nearly 1,000 reefer plugs available at its container terminals.

Over 70% of perishable shipments destined for the US enter Florida ports – and the same share comes in by air. Whilst there has been some modal shift from air to sea freight in Miami, most flowers still arrive by plane. Fish is the single biggest fresh perishable commodity arriving at Miami, and while it is mostly airfreighted, trials of fresh fish shipped by sea from Chile to the US are starting to attract considerable interest.

In 2012 Miami Airport imported a total of nearly 675,000 tonnes of perishables. This included 254,715 tonnes of seafood, 220,017 tonnes of flowers and 181,635 tonnes of vegetables.

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