“We are solely dedicated to the produce industry and our business is streamlined to handle perishables exclusively,” said Frank Ramos, a partner with his wife, Ana, in The Perishable Specialist Inc. in Miami. “We deal with the same government agencies and departments, the same vendors and the same steamship lines because this is all we do every day, twenty-four hours a day. We are the epitome of streamlined process when it comes to clearing imported fruits and vegetables.”
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 Mr. Ramos said is in “lickety-split” timing so customers can concentrate on what they do best; selling fresh produce.
Mr. Ramos added that strong relationships in the brokerage business are key to getting importers’ products to market “fresh and fast,” and that the company has built on its relationships over the past 22 years.
“Although regulations exist to provide guidance and consistency, routine builds relationships,” he said. “It would be foolish of me to say that strong relationships are not important. They are important in any and every aspect of life and this aspect is no different.”
The Perishable Specialist is involved with air, sea, rail and land carriers and service providers. It will arrange all types of transportation for a customer or bridge companies that will mutually benefit each other, said Mr. Ramos.
As a customs broker, the company needs to have knowledge of a lengthy list of agencies, including U.S. Customs & Border Protection, the Contraband Enforcement Team, Trade Enforcement Team, the Food & Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal Plant Health Inspection Services.
“The first and most important advice we offer an importer of record when they’ve engaged in a new deal or are embarking on their first ever deal is that we must review the USDA admissibility list,” said Mr. Ramos. “This ensures that the particular commodity is admissible into the U.S. and not considered prohibitive plant material.
“Irrespective of duty rates, marketing orders, airlift space, quotas and other related information, if the product is not admissible by the USDA from the origin country into the intended port of arrival, it cannot be imported,” he said.
The Perishable Specialist can coordinate fumigation for its customers on commodities with fumigation as a condition of entry or commodities requiring fumigation as a resolution for an intercepted actionable pest.
“Fumigation is a daily coordination for The Perishable Specialist because of the volume of Peruvian asparagus and yams from Costa Rica that we handle,” said Mr. Ramos. “These are commodities requiring fumigation as a condition of entry.”
He said that imports are constantly sampled by the FDA much more than their domestic counterparts. Domestic outbreaks by nature generate more examinations on imported products, and this is especially true for imported melons this year due to a listeria outbreak associated with cantaloupe from Colorado.
Imported melons run from November until May. Mr. Ramos said the melons the firm clears originate in Central America. The largest volumes are cantaloupe and honeydew.
“We are currently seeing containers from Guatemala,” he said Nov. 23. “We also see containers out of Panama, and the season typically ends with Honduras. ”
The Perishable Specialist offers its services primarily at Port Everglades and Miami. The company holds a national broker’s permit and can clear air and ocean arrivals at any U.S. port.