“A customs broker who is completely dedicated to fruits and vegetables serves the importer best because every ounce of effort is concentrated within the produce industry,” said Ana Ramos, partner with her husband, Frank Ramos, in The Perishable Specialist Inc., located in Miami. “We are the epitome of streamlined process, and solely dedicated to fruits and vegetables, which represent 99.9 percent of our day-to-day business. We are more efficient because we are true perishable specialists.”
Ms. Ramos added that the company’s efforts are designed and arranged to work for its fruit and vegetable importers. Its attention is never focused elsewhere because produce is all it does.
“We made a decision a little over 10 years ago to become effectively organized and commit our company and ourselves to serving the needs of fruit and vegetable importers,” she added.
As with everything in life, she noted, relationships are key and this industry is no exception. The Perishable Specialist’s staff has the ability to effectively communicate and engage the different government agencies that oversee the importation of fruits and vegetables into the U.S.
“Our entire operation is that of a customs broker — period,” she emphasized. “We are not an ocean liner or a trucking company, and we are not a cold-storage facility. However, we have excellent relationships with the most efficient carriers for both land and ocean, as well as some modern and efficient cold-storage facilities. We are able to coordinate on behalf of our importers and be a bridge for them and their logistical needs.”
She explained that Customs and Border Protection is the big brother and enforcer of rules and regulations as well as the issuer and collector of monetary penalties. Agriculture Quarantine Inspection is associated with the agriculture inspections done at the first port of arrival. Agriculture is a department within CBP. The U.S. Department of Agriculture intercepts insects and is responsible for the identification of actionable and non-actionable pests. Treatment of actionable pests falls under the responsibility of USDA. The Food & Drug Administration governs pesticide or microbiological findings in produce. The FDA randomly samples imports into the United States for the presence of either an illegal pesticide or dangerous pathogens.
People wanting to import a perishable item for the first time, “should contact a customs broker,” Ms. Ramos advised. “Ask for information. I always tell new importers what the most basic permits we will ask for are, which is a good starting point in setting them on an educational path. Prior to sending that item on a plane or shipping your first container, it is imperative that all permits are filed, registrations submitted and that admissibility is confirmed.”
The Perishable Specialist also coordinates the fumigation of commodities on a daily basis. This is called for when there are items that require fumigation as a condition of entry into the United States or because an actionable pest has been intercepted.
“We are involved in fumigation procedures for commodities arriving into East and West Coast ports by air and ocean container,” said Ms. Ramos.
“We are a remote location filer,” she continued, “which allows us to file entry at all ports in the U.S. We have an extensive peer-to-peer network, which provides legs at all major ports of the U.S. should the need for physical representation be necessary in cases where we are not present.”
Because The Perishable Specialist’s personnel is dedicated to the produce industry, its process is geared toward getting customers’ ocean containers or air arrivals of fresh fruit and vegetables cleared and to their warehouses in what Ms. Ramos said is in “lickety-split” timing so customers can concentrate on what they do best: selling fresh produce.