LAREDO, Texas – In the weeks leading to Valentine’s Day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s highly trained agriculture specialists stand poised to examine millions of flower stems to ensure that plant diseases and plant pests are detected and stopped 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. In the Laredo Field Office area, which includes eight ports of entry extending Brownsville to Del Rio, CBP agriculture specialists performing agriculture exams recorded a total of 130,691 quarantine plant and animal material interceptions and 15,082 pest interceptions during Fiscal Year 2014.
“Our agriculture specialists at South Texas ports of entry do an incredible job; they apply their trained eyes and backgrounds in the sciences to intercept tiny, nearly microscopic pests not established or known to exist in the U.S. that if allowed to enter our country could wreak significant harm on our domestic floral industry,” said Director, Field Operations David P. Higgerson, Laredo Field Office.
At South Texas area ports of entry, the most commonly prohibited flowers and plant materials are chrysanthemums, gladiolas, and choysia (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 processed approximately 801.1 million cut flower stems during the 2014 Valentine’s season from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, compared to 867.2 million stems processed during the 2013 season — a decrease of 7.6% percent. At Laredo’s cargo facilities, CBP processed 12.7 million stems, the fourth largest facility by volume for cut flower importations nationwide, between Jan. 1 and Feb. 14. Most of the cut flower shipments are imported from South America, primarily Colombia, with 505.9 million stems or 63.1 percent, followed by Ecuador with 184.1 million stems or nearly 23 percent.
View B-roll footage of CBP cut flower inspections at a South Texas port.