On the list of the top 500 Hispanic-owned U.S. companies, The Perishable Specialist, a customs brokerage firm headquartered in Miami, rose to number 351 this year.
“I am very proud of that,” said Frank Ramos, president of the company that he co-owns with his wife, Ana Ramos.
They launched the firm 10 years ago and have enjoyed steady growth ever since. “Counting my wife and I, we now have 17 employees,” said Mr. Ramos. “Through the recession, we haven’t had to lay anyone off and we have continued to grow.”
The company, which was number 408 on last year’s list, specializes in providing customs brokerage services to the fresh produce industry. “The top commodities we deal in are mangos, blueberries, raspberries, asparagus and a number of items from Guatemala,” he said.
Mr. Ramos is looking forward to a very good asparagus season, buoyed by new fumigation rules announced in early August. Getting the product through the mandatory fumigation process is one of the more important services a customs broker provides for importers.
On Aug. 5, the U.S. Department of Agriculture relaxed its fumigation procedures for Peruvian asparagus imported into the United States, essentially decreasing the amount of time the asparagus had to spend in a fumigation chamber by an hour and half. Mr. Ramos said that decrease is very significant because it will allow the process to be completed in a normal eight-hour shift. Previously, the eight-hours the product spent in the chamber meant that to clear each load took longer than a single shift and moved the USDA employee working that load into overtime. “This is beautiful news,” said Mr. Ramos. “It lowers the cost [of fumigation] and lowers the suffering of the product.”
The new protocol made several other changes as well. The dosage of methyl bromide has been lowered to four pounds, and the time of treatment has been increased by one-half hour. The overall time savings come in the aeration process, which has been decreased from six hours for most loads to four hours for all loads.
In announcing the new protocol, the USDA also announced that it is working on a new permit process that will allow non-fumigated Peruvian asparagus to be trucked to Canada from Miami. Currently, there is a permit process for Peruvian asparagus to land in New York and be trucked into Canada without fumigation. But Miami-landed product is not granted that permission.
“This is going to be very big,” said Mr. Ramos. “Canada is a growing point of consumption, and there is much more air-lift capacity coming to Miami than to New York. And it is much more expensive to air lift to New York. This is a very good deal for the importers.”
The certification process began in early August, and by the end of the month, the first permits were expected to be issued.
With regard to the firm continuing to move up the list of leading Hispanic-owned companies, which are ranked by sales volume, Mr. Ramos said that he cannot set his sights too high. “If you look in the 300s [which is where The Perishable Specialist is listed], you will see quite a few family-owned companies. When you get into the 100s and 200s, they are big corporations with huge sales numbers. That’s not who we are,” he said.