, January 2007
The Import Process
By Brian J. Gibson, PhD
When shopping in the supermarket produce section, consumers may not think about the origin of the fruits and
vegetables available for purchase. Given its freshness, and the climate diversity of our country, it is easy to assume that the
produce is domestically grown. In reality, more than 16.8 million metrics tons of fresh and processed produce valued at over
$13.8 billion will be imported to the United States in 2007, according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture
Outlook for U.S. Agricultural Trade
Overall, USDA estimates that imports account for 23.1 percent of U.S. per
capita fresh and frozen fruit consumption and 16.6 percent of fresh and frozen vegetable consumption in a 2003 Economic
The imports of the produce industry provide consumers with year-round access to reasonably priced, high quality
fruits and vegetables and the network of supply-chain participants facilitating the timely flow of goods from growing fields to
the marketplace is complex.
Using Chilean table grapes as an example, this installment of
will provide insights into the
import process. This process involves a number of key players including the importer who purchases the grapes from Chile
and resells them domestically, the exporter who sells the Chilean grapes to U.S. and other foreign customers, and the fruit
growers. Supply chain flows are handled by transportation companies who provide origin to port and port to destination
deliveries, ocean carriers who handle the long international moves, and intermediaries (freight forwarders, customs brokers,
stevedores, etc.) who manage export and import processes. Detailed explanations of critical export-import flows, participant
roles, and produce-specific challenges are provided within the context of this Chilean grapes example.
Table Grapes: An Import Example
Importing grapes is not as straightforward as buying them from a domestic grower. Greater distance and cycle time,
multi-modal transportation, and the ever-present government regulations that add significant complexity to the Chilean
grapes supply chain.
Chilean table grapes are primarily grown in the region between Santiago and La Serena, Chile
and shipped to the
U.S. from November to mid-April. In 2005, Chile accounted for 71 percent of all U.S. table grapes imports, more than
439,000 metric tons, according to the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service. Key East Coast entry points include the
Philadelphia Regional Port Authority’s Tioga Marine Terminal and the Port of Wilmington
in Delaware, while the Port of Los
Angeles is a primary West Coast entry point.
Grape buyers must manage information effectively as well as manage product to achieve cost-effective,