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CBP Inspects Millions of Cut Flowers for Valentine's Day

Release Date: 
February 12, 2013

San Juan, Puerto Rico—As Valentine's Day quickly approaches U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) diligently inspects shipments of imported cut flowers to prevent the spread of insects or pests that may damage national and local agriculture.

"Agriculture inspections are a crucial part of the inspection process for items entering into the country," said Marcelino Borges, director of Field Operations for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. "A single dangerous pest could cause millions of dollars of damage to our nation's crops."

While a relatively small number of harmful pests are found among the millions of stems inspected, one of the most serious diseases that can be introduced via imported flowers is chrysanthemum white rust. If established in the United States, the disease could decimate the U.S. chrysanthemum industry. Other agricultural pests and diseases capable of destroying our nation's crops or forests include the Emerald ash borer, the Asian long-horned beetle, citrus canker, and the Khapra beetle

During the 2012 season, CBP in Puerto Rico inspected 5.1 million stems of cut flowers imported from various destinations in South America. This volume puts the ports of San Juan and Aguadilla among the top 10 in the United States in volume of imported cut flowers.

Nationally, CBP processed approximately 842.2 million cut flower stems during the 2012 Valentine's season from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, compared to 802.5 million stems processed during the 2011 season -- an increase of 4.9 percent. Most of the cut flower shipments are imported from South America, primarily Colombia, with 536.1 million stems or 67 percent, followed by Ecuador with 194 million stems or 23 percent.

Miami ranks first among U.S. ports of entry for shipments of cut flower imports, followed by Los Angeles. The quantity of imported cut flowers processed by both ports during the 2012 Valentine's season increased 5.7 percent compared to 2011 season.

During calendar year 2012, CBP processed approximately 5.1 billion cut flower stems and Miami alone processed 4.3 billion stems.

The imported cut flowers inspection process resulted in a total of 2,439 pest interceptions nationally. Miami intercepted 1,394 pests, followed by Los Angeles with 371 pests. In Aguadilla 118 pests were intercepted and in San Juan 90.

The most common type of insects intercepted in these cut flower imports are Tetranychus sp. (mites), Aphididae (Aphids), Agromyzidae (Miner Flies) and Noctuidae (moths).

CBP agriculture specialists are determined to safeguard American agriculture by demonstrating careful diligence as they examine imported shipments detecting and preventing entry into the country of exotic plant pests and foreign animal diseases that could harm our agricultural resources. They do this with inspection and prevention efforts designed to keep prohibited agricultural items from entering the United States. These items (pests and/or diseases), whether in commercial cargo or as "hitchhikers" with an international airline/vessel, passenger or a pedestrian crossing the border, could cause serious damage to America's crops, livestock, and the environment.

The top 10 ports of entry, by volume (number of stems), that processed shipments of cut flower imports for the 2012 Valentine's season are:

Location Quantity in Stems
FL Miami Air Cargo CBP 716,735,319
CA Los Angeles CBP 35,011,039
CA Otay Mesa CBP 19,449,954
NY JFK Air Cargo CBP 19,444,566
TX Laredo CBP Colombia 18,618,113
IL Chicago CBP 6,201,306
MA Boston CBP 3,587,766
PR San Juan Air CBP 3,306,025
TX Laredo CBP 3,114,610
PR Aguadilla CBP 1,794,641

Media who wish to visit one of these top 10 ports for flower imports, please contact the press officer assigned to that area. Contact information is available online on the Press Officers website.

Photographs are available online: Photo Gallery - CBP Flower Inspections

Additional facts and figures about imported cut flowers are available on the Stats and Summaries website.