A fruitful reach for area ports

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Oranges in August? Clementines in back-to-school lunch boxes? Yes, say the citrus growers of South Africa, the world’s second-largest citrus exporter.

Why not import more citrus from the Southern Hemisphere, they say, when Florida oranges and Texas grapefruit are out of season?

Holt Marine Terminals in Gloucester City hosted a visit this week by Ebrahim Rasool, the South African ambassador to the United States, who addressed industry reps and elected officials on the impact of citrus imports from his homeland.

It’s not all about them, the ambassador said. Selling South African produce to us enables their burgeoning middle class — some 300 million strong — to buy American products in return, especially high-tech commodities.

Tuesday’s event saw the offloading of 24,000 cartons of South African oranges and clementines bearing American brand names like Sunkist and Seald Sweet. The African Growth and Opportunity Act offers trade incentives to developing countries, spurring international markets along with economic and political reforms. Holt Marine, the company which operates Gloucester Terminals LLC as well as the Packer Avenue Marine Terminal in Philadelphia, was ready and able to take advantage of the law. Gloucester Terminals has the largest refrigerated capacity of any terminal in the United States.

From June through October, a refrigerated vessel similar to the Sea Phoenix arrives at this port every 10 days. From there, fruit is transported to retail distribution sites, including warehouses in Gloucester County, and on to supermarkets across America. The frequency of the ships’ arrival and the speed of the offload assures importers and retailers that consumers receive fresh fruit on a regular, reliable basis.

The success of Gloucester Terminals LLC holds a lesson for future Gloucester County ports now in development. Define a market. Find a reliable source. Specialize.

Here’s hoping that Jersey tomatoes and peaches will soon be popular in South African markets, too.

source:    nj.com

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