In what is arguably the biggest development for the U.S. avocado market since Peruvian fruit was allowed in without cold treatment, the country’s first ever imports of Colombian Hass avocados arrived in Port Everglades, Florida today.
The 18 metric tons (MT) of avocados arrived this morning in the Hapag Lloyd vessel ‘Dubai Express’, which set sail from Colombia’s Port of Cartagena on Friday.
Importer Mission Produce will now take the fruit, packed by its Colombian partner Cartama and grown by Hasspacol, to its forward distribution center in Atlanta, Georgia for further inspection before being delivered to the final customer.
“Our customers expect us to be pioneers in the global avocado supply chain. Our involvement in Colombia extends Mission’s footprint to yet another country, and enhances our ability serve our customers as this category continues to boom globally,” said Mission’s CEO Steve Barnard.
“Since the announcement about Colombia being allowed into the U.S., we’ve had customers asking about it, and several wanting to be the first to receive the fruit,” added Mission’s vice president of sales & marketing Brent Scattini.
“We expect volume to build throughout the season, as well as in years to come. Having an additional source, another option, is good for our customer base,” Scattini said.
Mission’s senior vice president of global sourcing, Jim Donovan, said it was crucial for the company to capitalize on all available sources to serve a growing consumer base.
“Being the first to import Colombian fruit to the US reinforces Mission’s global footprint and leadership in the avocado category,” he said.
“Our partnership with Cartama in Colombia has been in the works for a number of years, and when this opportunity finally came to fruition, we were ready.”
The company’s Colombian partners were also very happy with the development, and thanked their country’s authorities for helping to make U.S. access possible.
“I’m proud to be the first Colombian grower to supply the U.S. market. Proud for my company, my team and my country. We know we have high-quality fruit, and now everyone else will know,” said Hasspacol commercial director Jose Luis Gonzalez.
“ICA is Colombia’s agriculture and food safety authority, and has been instrumental in developing the phytosanitary requirements for export to the U.S.,” said Cartama’s CEO Ricardo Uribe.
“We worked closely with Emilio Arevalo, the Technical Director at ICA, and with APHIS, in assuring that the strict requirements of the export protocol were met and that all future farms adhere to this protocol.”
Florida International Terminal LLC vice president and general manager Klaus Stadthagen said receiving the first shipment of Colombian avocados, of the highest quality, was a great source of pride.
“As a terminal focused on agricultural products and refrigerated products, receiving this product will serve to provide more options to United States consumers with Colombian products,” Stadthagen said.
“It’s very close to the final consumer. Our terminal is characterized for being a terminal that works very closely with importers and exporters, controlling the cold chain throughout the whole process.”
Port Everglades chief executive Steven Cernak said the port had actively been expanding its perishables market for years, so the latest news was a “huge welcome” for produce from Colombia.
“Port Everglades is the leading perishables seaport in Florida with easy access to 19 million consumers in the region,” Cernak said.
ProColombia’s U.S. agribusiness executive director Juan Camilo Barrera highlighted the leadership of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, government ministries, ICA, his agency and other groups like grower association CorpoHass for their support in making this new import deal a reality.
“After being part of a working group that has been aiming for this moment for more than five years, it is great to see a container of Colombian avocados unloaded on U.S. territory for the first time,” Barrera said.
Exports from Westsole are also on their way to the United States, and are set to arrive in the port of Long Beach by Nov. 12.
“I’d like to thank the work of exporters like Hasspacol, Cartama and Westsole that shipped in this first stage, and many more that are working so that this opportunity becomes a reality,” Barrera said.