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Customized Brokers hears buzz of increased blueberry volumes

Nelly Yunta, general manager for Customized Brokers in Miami, told The Produce News that Argentina blueberries should ship early this year.

Customized Brokers is a subsidiary of Crowley Maritime Corp. in Jacksonville, FL. “Crowley is a diversified company that does about a billion and a half in annual revenues in shipping, logistics and projection solutions,” said Ms. Yunta. “Customized Brokers is a customs clearance broker. We clear customs for importers, and we specialize in fresh produce. Besides clearing shipments through government agencies, we also handle logistics for some of our customers by coordinating with Crowley.”

Ms. Yunta said that blueberries from Argentina are due to start in mid-September, with the first shipments coming from the Tucuman region.

“Shipments this year will start a little earlier than normal, but that works out perfectly because Argentina coordinates well with Chile, and they start shipping in October,” she said. “Uruguay also starts in October. Timing of these movements depends on the weather, but our experience is that we’ll be getting shipments from Chile and Uruguay in mid-October.”

Based on her conversations with growers and customers this year, Ms. Yunta expects to see an increase in volumes from South America. Given the strong consumer demand, the increase will be good for the market. She added that volumes have increased for the past several years.

“The U.S. divides volumes with the United Kingdom, Canada and Europe, but the U.S. is the major importer of South American blueberries,” she said. “We also handle some strawberries and blackberries from these countries. Argentina is the big player today, followed by Chile and Uruguay.”

Import regulations, Ms. Yunta said, are the same this year as they have been in recent years.

“Argentina is working hard to modify the fumigation protocols,” she said. “They are looking to lower the temperature for fumigation. Agencies in South America are working with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expedite the results of a study on this matter, as it would result in better product that reaches the U.S. We don’t expect to see a change this year, but we need to follow up on this and help the USDA understand the need for the change.”

The final destination for the bulk of South American berries that are cleared by Customized Brokers is the East Coast, with the Northeast getting the bulk. Ms. Yunta said that about 25 percent of the berries come by ocean freight, and the remainder is shipped by air.

Customized Brokers has been servicing farmers, importers and exporters around the world since 1989. The firm provides efficient service, compliance expertise and careful attention to detail.

“We understand that businesses operate around the clock, and we do too,” said Ms. Yunta. “We offer 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage, and we’re always ready to answer any questions or to provide any service. When you’re shipping time- and temperature-sensitive goods like fresh and frozen produce, every second counts. To succeed in this competitive business, you need a customs partner that is reliable, experienced and completely committed to customers’ success. We keep our customers informed about their shipments all the way to the final destination.

“We are looking forward to this coming berry season, and we’re hoping that our customers have a year of great success,” she added.