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florida

Are Chinese Citrus Imports a Major Threat to Florida’s Agricultural Community?

The recent federal decision to authorize the import of certain citrus fruits from China has garnered significant attention since its announcement in April.  More so in an ongoing pandemic situation across the world, this came as a major shock to the indigenous farmers and authorities in Florida. While there have been neutral remarks by California industry representatives who do not foresee any formidable impact on the fresh produce markets owing to the smaller volumes of import, Florida seems to differ on the opinion.

What’s the USDA decision regarding citrus imports?

Towards mid-April, the U.S. Department of Agriculture authorized the import of five commercial citrus fruits from China. Chinese pomelos, Nanfeng tangerines, Ponkan tangerines, sweet oranges, and Wenzhou tangerines are the five varieties of citrus fruits that can now be imported into the U.S following systematic plant pest screening. The decision comes after the federal scientists reinstate that these five varieties can be safely imported given the farmers, packers, and shippers use a systematic approach to minimize pest risks.

Following the announcement US Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott penned a letter to Sonny Perdue, the USDA Secretary to reconsider his decision

Following the announcement US Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott penned a letter to Sonny Perdue, the USDA Secretary to reconsider his decision of importing these varieties that may be detrimental to the current scenario of Citrus trade in Florida. The impacts could be manifold pertaining to the safety of these produces in the aftermath of a pandemic.

Why are these five fruits such a cause of concern?

The four main things to know here are:

  1. The dwindling Citrus Industry of Florida.

Firstly, the sorry state of Florida’s Citrus industry over the past decade has been a major concern for the agricultural community as well as industry experts. The reasons for such a downward spiral are hurricanes, unfair pricing of imports, and citrus greening. Mike Sparks, executive vice president and CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, stated,

We need to take another look at this decision. Add to the fact it will hurt growers by flooding domestic markets with Chinese citrus and it really is a double whammy.

At a time when the indigenous growers are facing a steep challenge with the ongoing economic crisis, this move seems to come as a severe blow to the agricultural community in Florida.

  1. Citrus Greening

Citrus Greening or Huanglongbing, HLB, a disease that originated in China and entered the U.S. through imported citrus is a serious cause of concern. The disease primarily affects the growth of the plants and produces asymmetrical and stunted fruits with thick yellowing peel and a bitter taste. Citrus Greening has been majorly responsible for the dwindling citrus fruit production in the US and many other countries around the world.

  1. Potential invasive pest and disease threats.

Especially in the aftermath of the pandemic engrossing the world, there is a potential invasive threat of pests and diseases. While Florida industry representative Dan Richey finds the agreement of the country to import Chines citrus fruits close to lunacy, he emphasized the likely threats new imports could introduce to the nation. He stated

I am much more concerned with the invasive pest and disease risk, not only with the fruit but with pallets the fruit is shipped on. We are required to use heat-treated pallets to ensure no wood-boring insects are hitchhiking in the pallets. Again, the Chinese cannot be trusted to adhere to this rule and who knows what may arrive in these pallets and on our shores?

  1. Adherence to the Systematic Approach of Imports

Lastly, the USDA supported the decision based on the prerogative that if a systematic approach is adhered to in importing these fruits, then there is absolutely no cause of concern. But the question is who is to guarantee that such a systematic approach is being strictly followed?

This systematic approach demands that the growers, packers and shippers implement a methodical approach that minimizes the risk of pests. Limiting imports to commercial shipments alone, registering production sites & packaging plants, certifying the safety of the imports and that they are devoid of any pests or infections, regular inspection and sanitization of the production sites and proper disposal of waste. While these seem the best practices that must be followed to ensure safe consumption, Richey remarked, “If we think for one minute that China will hold their grower/packers to the standards required of a systems approach, we are fools.”

While the apparent impact of the imports on the market is believed to be small, the threat of introducing invasive varieties to the region is real and the subsequent adverse impact on the agricultural community cannot be overlooked. The decision seems to be ill-timed and irresponsible given what the industry has faced in the last decade as well as on account of the ongoing economic crisis.

BlueGrace CEO Bobby Harris Named One of Florida’s Most Influential Business Leaders

BlueGrace CEO Bobby Harris Named One of Florida’s Most Influential Business Leaders

SEPTEMBER 25, 2018 | BlueGrace Logistics CEO Bobby Harris has been selected as one of Florida’s Most Influential Business Leaders on the Florida 500 – Florida Trend’s roster of the state’s 500 most influential business leaders spanning across more than 60 business categories and economic sectors.

The Florida 500 list is the product of a year-long research initiative by the editors of Florida Trend resulting in a personal, engaging look at the state’s most influential business leaders across major industries. The 500 executives were selected based on extensive contacts in regional business circles, hundreds of interviews and months of research, culminating in a highly selective biographical guide to the people who really run Florida.

Bobby is one of just 18 Transportation Executives chosen on the prestigious list of top business influencers throughout the entire state of Florida.

BlueGrace would like to officially congratulate Bobby on this much deserved honor!

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About Bobby Harris

Bobby Harris is the founder and CEO of BlueGrace Logistics, a North American 3rd party logistics firm headquartered in Tampa, FL. BlueGrace has an industry-wide reputation for its high-performance shipping technology, innovative culture, being privately held, and hyper-growth since its inception in 2009. BlueGrace has an industry-wide reputation for its high-performance shipping technology, innovative culture, and hyper-growth since its inception in 2009. In 2012, INC 500 named BlueGrace the 20th fastest growing company in the United States, and in 2014, Bobby won Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year. In July of 2018, Bobby was welcomed as the newest member of Northwestern University Transportation Center (NUTC) Business Advisory Council (BAC). Mr. Harris is a member of YPO, and proudly supports the Humane Society of Tampa Bay as a member of the Advisory Council and is an advisor for the Tampa Bay Partnership.  He earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of South Florida.

 

About Florida Trend

Florida Trend business magazine is read by 250,000 influential business executives, civic leaders and government officials each month. Its award-winning reporting covers business news, executives, key industry sectors, regional news and lifestyle. E-newsletters cover breaking news, movers and influencers, real estate, health care, education and small business. Floridatrend.com attracts over 100,000 unique viewers monthly.

The Florida 500 list is the product of a year-long research initiative by the editors of Florida Trend resulting in a personal, engaging look at the state’s most influential business leaders across major industries. The 500 executives were selected based on extensive contacts in regional business circles, hundreds of interviews and months of research, culminating in a highly selective biographical guide to the people who really run Florida.  A variety of sources were used to produce the list, including input from executives of economic development organizations, professional associations and others who know their communities, industries and the state well.

 

About BlueGrace Logistics

Founded in 2009, BlueGrace Logistics is one of the fastest growing leaders of transportation management services in North America. As a full-service third-party logistics provider (3PL), BlueGrace helps businesses manage their freight spend through industry leading technology, high level freight carrier relationships and overall understanding of the complex $750 Billion U.S. freight industry. Backed by a $255 million investment by private equity firm Warburg Pincus, the company operates 12 locations nationwide and is headquartered headquartered in Tampa, Florida. For more information, visit www.mybluegrace.com.