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Winter fruit season underway at the Port of Wilmington

Sophia Schmidt
Delaware Public Media

Winter fruit season is underway at the Port of Wilmington.

Representatives from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently visited the Port of Wilmington - joining truckers and port officials to discuss the winter season.

Joe Cruise is the CEO of port operator GT USA Wilmington. He says there were some concerns brought up at that meeting.

“We had some issues last year with regards to - and a lot of it was COVID related - with regards to labor and equipment; there were some potential issues with the frequency of the vessels," Cruise said. "So we just kind of went over those that people still had/have from last year. But we assured them that both labor, equipment and the vessel schedule are setting up well.”

Cruise notes that the Port has plenty of space in its refrigerated warehouses to house the 4,500 to 5,000 pallets of fruit that arrive daily.

The winter fruit season started earlier this month and continues through the spring.

“We started with the clementine season about three weeks ago from Morocco; we receive both U.S.-bound clementine's, as well as Canadian-bound clementine's," Cruise said. "The Chilean winter fruit season starts usually the last week in December or the first week of January and runs through April.”

Cruise adds that a successful season at the port is vital to getting fruit - especially grapes and clementine's imported into this country - to First State grocery stores.

He says there is a million-feet of warehouse space at the Port of Wilmington and 850,000-square-feet is refrigerated.

Cruise says by the end of January into February that refrigerated space will be full as the port moves 5.6 million cases of Moroccan clementine's and 12-million cases of Chilean grapes.

He notes that the Port is also handling its usual cargos of bananas, juices and salts - as well as some of lumber and plywood for local markets.

Cruise says to date, the Port is not seeing any direct supply chain issues. And there is no berth congestion or ships waiting offshore to come dock.

He adds indirectly, issues at other ports across the United States have benefitted the Port of Wilmington.

And while supply chain issues are affecting many other ports across the United States, Cruise says the Port of Wilmington is not currently experiencing backlogs.