As Valentine’s Day approaches, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agriculture specialists around the country are preparing for the day of love by inspecting cut flower shipments arriving from overseas.
Each year, hundreds of millions of cut flowers are shipped into the United States for Valentine’s Day, which is the country’s second busiest time for cut flower imports, the first being Mother’s Day.
Flower imports have remained steady during the COVID-19 pandemic. In January 2021, CBP agriculture specialists processed more than 496 million cut flowers, intercepting 542 pests. This was a slight increase from the same time period in 2020, which saw more than 453 million cut flower shipments and 542 pest interceptions.
“Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, CBP agriculture specialists have been stellar in ensuring all high risk commodities, including cut flowers, are inspected for invasive pests in order to keep our nation safe from environmental threats,” said Kevin C. Harriger, Executive Director Agriculture Programs and Trade Liaison.
The top imported flowers are mixed bouquets, roses, chrysanthemums, dianthus, and rose bouquets. Before these flowers can reach their intended recipients, CBP agriculture specialists must inspect them to ensure they are free from pests or diseases, including species of Noctuidae and Aphididae, commonly known as the owlet moth and aphids, which can cause irreparable damage to the environment if allowed into the country. If pests such as these are discovered, the shipments must be treated, re-exported or destroyed, depending on the severity of the infestation.
Cut flowers are normally imported in bulk, mostly from countries in South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. The top exporting countries are Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, the Netherlands, and Costa Rica. Most of these shipments are sent to ports in Miami, Otay Mesa, and San Diego.
CBP’s highly-trained agriculture specialists are the front line in safeguarding America’s agricultural resources. In Fiscal Year 2020, CBP agriculture specialists throughout the nation conducted more than 750,000 examinations of imported agriculture or agricultural-related commodities that yielded nearly 60,000 pests that could be harmful to U.S. agriculture and the environment.