Thursday, March 29, 2012 by Lee Mannering

Common causes of fruit and vegetable cargo delays

A few weeks ago during PMA’s Government Affairs Committee meeting, we heard representatives from FDA, Customs, and USDA discuss challenges related to fruits and vegetables entering the U.S. During the discussions, an APHIS official shared the following most common reasons for cargo being held, and how to minimize delays at ports of entry:

  • Before sending product to the U.S., make sure the commodity is allowed entry here from the country of origin (an acceptable country/commodity combination). To do this, check with APHIS-PPQ personnel at the port.
  • Ensure all required permits, phytosanitary certificates, and other documentation (such as the PPQ 203 – Preclearance form) is in order before attempting to import a commodity. If you have questions, check with APHIS-PPQ personnel.
  • If you have an import permit, make certain you and your exporter meet the requirements stipulated on the permit.
  • Make certain exporter uses best practices for reducing possible pest infestation when packing perishable commodities and loading containers.
  • If pests/diseases are found, these will be identified by local PPQ personnel to determine quarantine significance. Quarantine-significant pests will require mitigation procedures (such as re-treatment of the shipment, re-exportation, or destruction). Non-quarantine pests may be released; however, the presence of these pests adds delays to the import process.

Another interesting aspect of his presentation was the distinction of port responsibilities between APHIS-PPQ and Homeland Security/Customs. APHIS-PPQ is responsible for inspection and clearance of propagative material (plants for planting) at Plant Inspection Stations; treatments (e.g. fumigation, cold treatments); pre-departure inspections in Hawaii and Puerto Rico; policies, regulations, import permits, phytosanitary certificates; smuggling interdiction and trade compliance program; preclearance of cargo overseas; and pest Identification and risk analysis.

DHS/Customs is responsible for regulated and non-regulated cargo (not for propagation) inspections; clearance of international travelers; international vessel and aircraft inspection; handling of animal products, by-products; issuance of fines and penalties at ports of entry; and safeguarding regulated transit cargo.

It was an interesting presentation and discussion of the various roles agencies play in getting produce shipments through various ports of entry. To learn more, visit our navigating regulatory agencies resource page.

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