Most of us, by now, have found while visiting or ordering from our local supermarkets that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, aisles remain stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. It may surprise some to learn that nearly half of all U.S. produce is imported from other countries. Some of the largest producers of these fruits and vegetables are located in Central and South America.
For nearly four decades, Seaboard Marine has played a pivotal role in facilitating trade between Latin America and the United States. As the year-round demand for fresh produce in the U.S. has steadily risen, we have continually upgraded, expanded, and reinvested in services, equipment, and infrastructure. These investments have allowed our most loyal customers, such as J&C Tropicals, to also expand their offerings as demand adjusts due to the COVID-19 situation.
Headquartered in Homestead, Florida, J&C Tropicals is a major importer and distributor of quality tropical roots, fruits, and vegetables throughout the United States. Luis Cintron, Director of Sales and Procurement at J&C Tropicals, said, “A key part of our supply chain is supported by refrigerated containerized shipping. We rely heavily on Seaboard Marine’s direct, weekly services throughout Latin America to provide a steady supply of quality produce. They have continued with reliable sailings and available equipment. Amid this crisis and from a public health perspective, the increasing availability of nutritional year-round fruits and vegetables is of great benefit to consumers in these stressful times.”
Jose Concepcion, Seaboard Marine’s Vice President of Central America, said, “The reality that we expanded the size of our container fleet and continually reinvested in our services really registers in times like these where perishables must be quickly delivered. At our PortMiami terminal alone, we have increased our refrigerated power capacity to 430 container plugs while adding a cold chamber for inspections and transfers. These improvements, along with the commitment of the dedicated staff at CBP, help fresh produce reach consumers faster.”
With comparable capabilities throughout the U.S. Gulf and East Coasts, including Savannah, Philadelphia, and Brooklyn, Seaboard Marine was prepared for the sudden urgency in the speedy transportation of refrigerated cargo. For example, our partners at Penn Terminals in Philadelphia and Red Hook Container Terminals in Brooklyn are similarly equipped with superior refrigerated cargo handling capabilities and preventative measures to ensure continued uninterrupted service.
Mike Stamatis, President of Red Hook Container Terminals, said, “The situation locally here in New York is tragic, but we are determined to keep moving cargo to supply stores in the region with bananas, pineapples, and other fruits and vegetables. Walking into a supermarket can be a bit nerve-wracking for folks these days, but it comforts people to always see ample fresh produce on the shelves. Seaboard Marine continues to deliver on its commitment to maintaining reliable services. Their vessels consistently arrive on-time with essential cargoes. Our team at Red Hook is proud to unload them and safely work with the local truckers to get food where it is needed promptly.”
One benefit of difficult times is the deepening of partnerships. We’ve partnered with our customers on schedule adjustments, strategy, even the development of new standard operating procedures, which, in the end, helps customers, such as Exp. Group LLC, keep stores throughout the U.S. stocked with healthy produce.
Exp. Group LLC is a multinational group of importers and distributors of tropical fruits and vegetables from Central and South America. Anthony Serafino, Vice President of Exp. Group LLC, said, “Seaboard Marine has shown to be a great partner. Over the years, and never truer than in these past few weeks, we’ve really seen a difference in the increased importance of our supply chain, starting at the farms in the Caribbean and Latin America through delivery to stores in the U.S. These are unfortunate times for so many people, but along with Seaboard Marine we are proudly doing our part to distribute fresh fruits and vegetables to U.S. consumers reliably.”
Concepcion added, “We’re an essential business; however, the term essential has provided some new perspective for us in this difficult time. Yes, we provide transportation, but we’re humbled to be working with all of our dedicated partners — even those we don’t work with directly. From the farms, exporters, and overseas governments, to customs brokers, customers, U.S. government agencies, and grocery stores, both large and small. Thank you for continuing to do your part so that we can do ours.”