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CBP Protects Valentine's Day Flowers from Harmful Pests

Release Date: 
February 11, 2014

The weeks leading to Valentine’s Day are some of the most demanding each year for U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists as they ensure that cut flowers are free from microscopic insects and diseases that could harm the U.S. agricultural and floral industries.

Detecting and preventing pests from entering the U.S. avoids significant economic and environmental harm. “Basically, CBP agriculture specialists are at theCBP agriculture specialist gently taps flower import samples to shake out hitchhiking bugs frontline for inspection of agricultural products to detect plant pests and plant diseases not established in the United States,” said CBP Acting Assistant Port Director for Agriculture Linda Cullen. The Miami port of entry where she works ranks first among U.S. ports of entry for cut flower imports because of its close vicinity to South America and Central America.

Flowers chosen for physical inspections are based on low, medium, or high risk as determined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Cut Flower Release Program. The criteria for this program include measuring how many and what kinds of pests were found in shipments of the various species of flowers arriving from different countries. The risks associated with imported cut flowers change over time for several reasons. For example, the volume of imported flowers and the size of insect populations change from year to year. Also, different species of pests spread from country to country.

CBP processed approximately 867.2 million cut flower stems during the 2013 Valentine’s Day season (Jan. 1 to Feb. 1), compared to 842.2 million stems CBP agriculture specialist at Miami International Airport examines flower importsprocessed during the 2012 season–an increase of 3 percent. Most of the cut flowers are imported from South America, primarily Colombia, with 567.3 million stems or 65.4 percent, followed by Ecuador with 190.2 million stems or 21.9 percent.

During the 2013 Valentine’s season:

  • CBP in Miami processed approximately 738.2 million stems, or 85 percent of total imported cut flowers nationally, compared to 716.7 million stems imported during the same time in 2012. The port of Los Angeles ranked second by processing 43.7 million flower stems during the 2013 Valentine’s season, compared to 35 million stems imported during the previous season.
  • In Miami, the top cut flower imports were roses, mixed bouquets, and rose bouquets.
  • Imported cut flower inspections netted 1,867 pest interceptions locally between Jan. 20-Feb. 14 last year.

Top 10 ports of entry, by volume (number of stems), that processed shipments of cut flower imports for the 2013 Valentine season:

Location

Quantity in Stems

FL Miami Air Cargo CBP

738,217,839

CA Los Angeles CBP

43,735,176

CA Otay Mesa CBP

19,612,868

TX Laredo CBP Colombia

18,411,118

NY JFK Air Cargo CBP

14,220,028

IL Chicago CBP

7,174,739

MA Boston CBP

3,722,303

TX Pharr CBP

3,366,285

PR San Juan Air CBP

2,607,351

NJ Newark Sea CBP

1,938,240

Top 10 ports of entry, by number of plant pests intercepted from shipments of imported cut flowers:

Location

Pests Intercepted

FL Miami Air CBP

1008

CA Los Angeles CBP

206

NY JFK CBP

119

PR Aguadilla CBP

113

PR San Juan Air CBP

101

CA Otay Mesa CBP

59

IL Chicago CBP

37

TX Dallas/Ft. Worth CBP

17

TX Brownsville CBP

6

HI Honolulu CBP

6

CA San Francisco CBP

6