CBP Agriculture Specialist Lalita Polisetty inspects cut flowers arriving from Europe at Dulles International Airport for invasive pests in advance of Valentines Day 2019. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection photo by Jaime Rodriguez Sr.)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agricultural Specialists Stop and Smell the Valentine Flowers

Smelling roses with Valentine’s Day around the corner? Us too. This year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection expects to process more than one billion cut-stem flowers in time for Valentine’s Day.

Agriculture specialists with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at ports around the country are responsible for processing Valentine’s Day flowers, ensuring they are pest and disease-free.

“The flower market at this time of year is huge,” said said Kevin Harriger, CBP’s executive director for the Agriculture Programs and Trade Liaison office, “Our folks in the field are working extremely hard to make sure flowers get to businesses and homes around the country in time for the big day, but they’re doing so in a way that ensures the American environment and economy is protected.”

Imported flowers can carry hitchhiking pests and diseases that could cause millions of dollars in damage to the U.S. flower industry and beyond. While the vast majority of flowers entering the country are safe, even one hitchhiking pest or plant disease could cause significant damage to American agriculture. It’s critically important not only to consumers, but to the vitality of the U.S. economy that cut flower imports are carefully inspected by CBP agriculture specialists.

So far this season, the top ten incoming ports have processed 974 million stems, and intercepted some 1,662 pests.

If pests or diseases are found, the shipments may be treated and released, re-exported, or destroyed. Examples of interceptions found by agriculture specialists include species of Aphididae, Noctuidae, and Tetranychus, commonly known as aphids, owlet and cutworm moths, and spider mites, respectively.

The top three types of flower shipments in the U.S. during the Valentine’s season last year were roses, mixed bouquets and rose bouquets. The top three countries of origin were Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico.

Miami International Airport ranks first among United States ports of entry for shipments of cut flower imports with approximately 88 percent of fresh-cut flowers nationwide so far this year, followed by Port Everglades, Fla. and Los Angeles with 24.8 and 16.2 million each respectively. During the 2018 Valentine’s Season, CBP’s Miami Field Office alone inspected over 1.3 billion stems of cut flowers.

Read more at CBP

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