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CBP Agriculture Specialists in San Francisco Intercept Potentially Harmful Plants, Seeds, Citrus Peels

Release Date: 
December 16, 2009

San Francisco - U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists working at the San Francisco International Airport and Oakland Seaport have made several important plant, seed, and citrus peel discoveries so far this December. They intercepted live orchids and bonsai trees in mail shipments, discovered contaminant seeds in the refrigeration unit of an ocean-going container, and found a large quantity of citrus peels in a passenger's luggage.

"It may not seem to be such a big deal to bring them into the country, but some plants can spread unchecked, choking out native flora. Additionally, plants and plant products such as citrus peel can harbor pests, which can spread and affect a large area," said Richard Vigna, U.S. Customs and Border Protection director of Field Operations in San Francisco. "The attention to detail demonstrated by the CBP agriculture specialists who discovered these items should be noted, and is the direct result of a thorough and detailed examination process."

On December 4, CBP agriculture specialists at the San Francisco Air Mail Facility were inspecting a shipment from Thailand when they discovered 11 live orchids without the required documentation. On December 12, agriculture specialists intercepted another four live orchids in a parcel arriving from China. In both cases, the shipments were mis-declared, one as "baby toy", and the other as "silk". Live plants require a phytosanitary certificate from the country of export stating that the plant is free of disease and pests. Additionally, orchids are a plant species covered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora agreement, and require a CITES certificate for import. The orchids were seized and turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for final identification.

On December 8, CBP agriculture specialists at the AMF were examining a shipment from China when they discovered a live bonsai pine plant in soil with no documentation. The bonsai also had a snail hitchhiking along. The same person attempted to import the same type of plant four days later, on December 12. Imported plants in soil require a phtyosanitary certificate, stating the plant is free from disease and pests, from the originating country. Both plants were seized and turned over to USDA for final identification.

On December 9, CBP agriculture specialists at the San Francisco International Airport were inspecting the luggage of a passenger arriving from China when they discovered several plastic bags filled with citrus peels. In all, the passenger had 17 bags of peels weighing a total of approximately 8 kilos. Several pests were present in the peels, and they are pending final identification by USDA.

Finally, on December 10, CBP agriculture specialists were examining an ocean container arriving from Chile when they noticed seeds in the cooling fins of the refrigeration unit. The seeds were identified as Saccharum sp., a federal noxious weed, and destroyed.

While anti-terrorism is the primary mission of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the inspection process at the ports of entry associated with this mission results in impressive numbers of enforcement actions in all categories.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017