El Paso, TX - In the weeks leading to Valentine's Day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection's highly trained agriculture specialists ensure that plant diseases and plant pests are detected and prevented from being introduced into the United States where they could cause harm.
At international ports of entry, land borders and mail facilities, CBP agriculture specialists are the front line in the fight against the introduction of harmful insects and diseases into the United States. El Paso area CBP officers performing agriculture exams recorded 61,802 quarantine material interceptions and 4,304 pest interceptions during fiscal year 2011.
At El Paso area ports of entry, the most commonly prohibited flowers and plant materials are chrysanthemums, gladiolas, and choisya (an ornamental filler). These items are not allowed to enter the U.S. from Mexico because they are known to harbor harmful pests and disease.
Individuals purchasing floral arrangements in Mexico for transport to the U.S. should advise their florist so prohibited plant species will not be used in the arrangement.
"CBP agriculture specialists are on the frontline, protecting U.S. agriculture and natural resources from foreign origin plant pests and diseases at our nations' borders," said Kevin Harriger, executive director for CBP's Agriculture Programs and Trade Liaison office. "CBP also facilitates the processing of trade to ensure global economic competitiveness."
During the 2011 Valentine's Day season from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, CBP agriculture specialists prevented the entry of 3,400 plant pests hitchhiking on cut flower imports.
CBP processed approximately 802.5 million cut flower stems compared to 320.8 million stems processed during the 2010 season -- an increase of 150 percent. Most of the cut flower shipments are imported from South America, primarily Colombia, with 502.1 million stems or 63 percent, followed by Ecuador with 187 million stems or 23 percent.
Miami ranks first among U.S. ports of entry for shipments of cut flower imports processing 84 percent of the total imported cut flowers for the season, followed by Los Angeles. The quantity of imported cut flowers processed by both ports during the 2011 Valentine's Day season has more than doubled compared to the 2010 season.
The top 10 ports of entry, by volume of cut flower imports processed, are: Miami; Los Angeles; New York; Laredo, Texas; Otay Mesa, Calif.; Chicago; Newark, N.J.; Boston; Wilmington, Del.; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In fiscal year 2011, CBP agriculture specialists logged nearly 200,000 insect and disease interceptions.
Photographs, facts and figures about CBP inspection of imported cut flowers are available on the CBP Web site.
B-roll video of imported cut flower inspection during the Valentine's Day season can be found on the DVIDS service site.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.