Lewis Nursery and Farms and its subsidiary American Blueberries, LLC, have officially opened a USDA Animal & Plant Health inspection Service (APHIS)-certified cold treatment facility located in Rocky Point, North Carolina.

This certified facility will not only benefit American Blueberries and its customers, but the availability of this service will support the import of fresh produce, like blueberries, grapes, apples, pears, citrus and a broad variety of organics, through the Port of Wilmington year-round. With this capability and certification, North Carolina will be one of only seven states in the entire United States, and one of only two states in the Southeast, to have such a facility, making North Carolina a destination for the import of fresh produce into the U.S

“We are extremely excited to have had the opportunity to become a certified cold treatment facility and to have met the USDA requirements successfully,” said Cal Lewis, president, Lewis Nursery and Farms and American Blueberries. “We are now poised to service customers choosing to use the Port of Wilmington with an option to treat their commodities if necessary, providing a great opportunity to enhance North Carolina’s agricultural business.”

This certification makes the Port of Wilmington one of only two ports in the Southeast capable of re- treating failed in-transit cold treated commodities.

“This cold treatment facility is essential for our customers looking to import produce through the Port of Wilmington,” said Brian E. Clark, executive director, North Carolina State Ports Authority. “By securing this certification, Lewis Nursery and Farms and American Blueberries will not only enhance North Carolina’s cold chain, but the services offered at the Port of Wilmington as well.” 

 Cold treatment is a process used to eliminate pests from produce before it’s imported into the United States. This process is done by lowering the fruit pulp to a certain temperature for a specified period of time. Since this can be done while vessels are en route, in-transit cold treatment boosts shelf life and expedites perishable produce to consumers.

If treatment is unable to be fully validated by the time the vessel arrives in port due to technical issues, the refrigerated container can be discharged and plugged in on port until data can validate the shipment has completed its treatment schedule. The Port of Wilmington has secured USDA approval to complete this cold treatment process on port in cases like these.

If there is a failure during the cold treatment process on the vessel or in the container, the shipment can be re-treated at a certified cold treatment warehouse like Lewis Nursery and Farms’ facility.

This USDA APHIS certified cold treatment facility not only supports North Carolina agriculture by allowing farms, like Lewis Farms, to operate year-round, but it also positions refrigerated containers in the state to support the export of pork, poultry, sweet potatoes and pharmaceuticals, as well as processed food.

“North Carolina is one of the nation’s fastest growing states, meaning more consumers requiring year- round access to fruits, vegetables and proteins – bringing with it a positive demand increase for more product options and solutions” said Hans Bean, chief commercial officer, North Carolina State Ports Authority. “This new facility, in addition to the Port of Wilmington being named the most productive port in North America, further positions NC Ports as an ideal gateway for the movement of refrigerated cargo, saving customers time, money and distance to consumers.”

About North Carolina Ports
With deepwater port locations in Wilmington and Morehead City, plus an inland port in Charlotte and intermodal rail access through CSX’s Carolina Connector (CCX) in Rocky Mount, North Carolina Ports links the state’s consumers, business and industry to world markets and serves as magnets to attract new business and industry to the State of North Carolina. Port activities contribute statewide to more than 87,700 jobs and $678 million each year in state and local tax revenues. North Carolina Ports continues in its commitment to meet and exceed industry standards while increasing efficiency. This commitment positioned the Port of Wilmington at the top of the latest S&P Global – World Bank Container Port Performance Index (CPPI), ranking it as the most productive port in North America and the 44th globally.

About Lewis Nursery and Farms
Lewis Nursery and Farms is a third-generation family farm located in Rocky Point, North Carolina approximately 18 miles north of Wilmington. Over the past 60 years, Lewis Farms has diversified from growing strawberries and strawberry plants to the added production of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Present-day production includes tunnel grown winter strawberries, standard spring strawberries, blueberries, and tunnel grown blackberries.