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The Perishable Specialist expects similar asparagus volume

The Perishable Specialist, a Florida-based customs brokerage house with a long history of helping companies bring Peruvian asparagus into the United States, is expecting volumes similar to previous years as the season begins to ramp up.

Ana-and-Frank-A.-RamosAna and Frank Ramos, co-owners of The Perishable Specialist.“When it comes to the Peruvian asparagus deal, all my customers are telling me that they are going to have the same numbers as last year,” said Frank Ramos, who owns the company along with his wife, Ana. “So we are expecting a fairly similar deal.”

He noted that his own business, which includes handling many different perishable items as the company name suggests, “is better than the year before” as it has shown steady growth over the past two decades since he and his wife founded the company. While customs brokers across the country have been impacted by the ongoing trade wars between the Trump Administration and various countries, most notably China and Mexico, The Perishable Specialists has not been adversely impacted.

He explained that South American exports have not been subject to the trade wars. He also noted that his business is mostly sea and air shipments into Miami so he also hasn’t had to get involved with some of the problems and delays that have plagued truck shipments from Mexico.

Ramos said one government policy that will impact Peruvian asparagus this year is the final increase in the cost of the Agricultural Quarantine Inspection fee. He explained that five years ago, after years of providing the service for free, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service announced a new and very significant charge. The fee was set to go from zero to $237 per container virtually overnight.

“We fought it and we were able to convince the USDA to phase in the increase over time,” he said.

So for each of the past five years, the fee has increased on Dec. 28. “This year is the final increase as it goes from $190 per container to $237,” he said.

While that is a 25 percent increase, and significantly raises the cost of the service, Ramos said the fact that USDA did phase in the increase over five years has been very positive for the industry.

He is hopeful that the $237 fee remains at that level with no further increases, at least for a few years. “Of course, we know it’s never going to go down,” he quipped.

He said the fee is applied to all fruit and vegetables that are quarantined, whether they are cold treated, go through radiation or are fumigated fumigated, as is the case with Peruvian asparagus. If the USDA provides an inspection service for that protocol, the fee is charged.

Though it has been discussed off and on to establish other acceptable protocols, Ramos said all Peruvian asparagus is fumigated after reaches the United States. Consequently, no asparagus from that country can be marketed as organic in the United States as the fumigation process renders organic certification impossible even if the product was grown via organic farming methods.