CHICAGO—In the days leading up to Valentine's Day,
Chicago U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists are inspecting imported cut flowers shipments to ensure fresh flower bouquets and other floral gifts are free from plant diseases and pests that could harm the U.S. floral and agricultural industry.
"Flowers are very beautiful, but can carry pests and diseases. In Chicago, CBP agriculture specialists are working hard to safeguard American agriculture by detecting plant pests and diseases in commercial cargo shipments and in international airline passenger baggage at O'Hare Airport," said Steven Artino, acting director of CBP Chicago Office of Field Operations. "This is a critical responsibility, especially here in the Midwest, where one dangerous pest could cause serious damage to crops, livestock and the environment."
During the Valentine's Day season from January 1 to February 14, 50 types of imported flowers will arrive from around the world for inspection in Chicago. In 2012, Chicago CBP agriculture specialists processed more than six million cut flowers of which tulips, daffodils, orchids, roses and delphinium were the most common. Chicago ranks sixth in the nation for receiving the most volume of cut flowers imported from Mexico, The Netherlands, Costa Rica, Thailand, Guatemala, Great Britain, Kenya and Peru during Valentine's Day season.
While a relatively small number of harmful pests are found among the millions of stems inspected in Chicago, the most common pest found on cut flowers is thrips. These tiny arthropods are just 2mm long, but infestations can ruin crops and cause other countries to refuse U.S. agriculture products. When a thrips species is found on imports, quarantine action is ordered by CBP and the infested import is fumigated, destroyed or re-exported. Other pests found on imported cut flowers in Chicago include moth caterpillars, snails, and other plant eating pests.
Nationally during the 2012 Valentine's Day season, CBP processed 842.2 million cut flower stems. Most imported cut flower shipments are imported from South America, primarily Colombia, with 536.1 million stems, followed by Ecuador with 194 million stems. Last year, imported cut flowers inspections resulted in a total of 2,439 pest interceptions nationally.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.