SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Flowers are one of the most popular gift items during the yearly celebration of Valentine’s Day and other popular yearly celebrations, but they could also be the hiding place for dangerous pests. Detecting and preventing pests from entering the U.S. avoids significant economic and environmental harm.
For the past three years, the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (SJU) in Carolina remains among the top 10 airports nationwide in terms of the volume of imported flowers that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspects.
“Stopping pests at the ports of entry is a critical mission for CBP agricultural specialists to protect the public and our commercial vitality,” said Marcelino Borges, Director of Field Operations for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
San Juan ranks among the Top 10 ports of entry in volume of imported flowers, averaging more than 2 million cut flowers.
Miami remains as the first among U.S. ports of entry for shipments of cut flower imports, followed by Los Angeles.
CBP agriculture specialists spend numerous hours searching for these bugs and diseases on cut flower imports arriving, primarily from South America. Colombia is the main flower exporter, followed by Ecuador.
In Puerto Rico, CBP intercepted 301 actionable pests, with 219 pests captured at the Rafael Hernandez Airport in Aguadilla and 93 at the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport in San Juan.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture determines physical cut flower inspections based on high, medium and low pest risk. This program uses criteria, which includes measuring how many and what kinds of pests are found in shipments within the various species of flowers arriving from different countries. The risks associated with imported cut flowers change over time for several seasons; for example, the volume of imported flowers and the size of insect populations change from year to year. In addition, different species of pests spread from country to country.
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.