Each year, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists inspect millions of cut flower imports during the Valentine season because some of these flowers may carry hitchhiking pests and diseases that could harm the U.S. flower industry.

“Agriculture inspections are a crucial part of the inspection process for items entering into the country,” said Kevin Harriger, executive director for the CBP Agriculture Programs Trade and Liaison office.  “CBP works to identify a relatively small number of harmful hitchhiking pests amongst the millions of stems entering the country because even a single dangerous pest could cause millions of dollars of damage to our nation’s crops.”

One of the most serious diseases that can be introduced via imported flowers is chrysanthemum white rust. If established in the United States, the disease could decimate the U.S. chrysanthemum industry. Other agricultural pests and diseases capable of destroying our nation’s crops or forests include the Emerald ash borer, the Asian long-horned beetle, citrus canker, and the Khapra beetle.

During the 2012 Valentine’s season from Jan. 1 to Feb. 14, CBP processed 842.2 million cut flower stems. Most of the cut flower shipments are imported from South America, primarily Colombia, with 536.1 million stems or 67 percent, followed by Ecuador with 194 million stems or 23 percent.

Miami ranks first among U.S. ports of entry for shipments of cut flower imports, followed by Los Angeles. The quantity of imported cut flowers processed by both ports during the 2012 Valentine’s season increased 5.7 percent compared to the 2011 season.

During the 2012 Valentine’s season:

  • CBP in Miami processed approximately 716.7 million stems or 85.1 percent of the total imported cut flowers nationally.
  • Approximately 516 million of cut flower stems imported from Colombia were processed in Miami, where the top cut flower imports are roses, mixed bouquets, and dianthus.
  • The imported cut flowers inspection process resulted in a total of 2,439 pest interceptions nationally. Miami intercepted 1,394 pests, followed by Los Angeles with 371 pests.
  • 838 pests (34.4 percent) were intercepted from Colombia and 903 (37 percent) were intercepted from Ecuador.
  • The most common type of insects intercepted in these cut flower imports are Tetranychus sp. (mites), Aphididae (Aphids), Agromyzidae (Miner Flies) and Noctuidae (moths).

The top 10 ports of entry, by volume (number of stems), that processed shipments of cut flower imports for the 2012 Valentine’s season are:

Location Quantity in Stems
FL Miami Air Cargo CBP 716,735,319
CA Los Angeles CBP 35,011,039
CA Otay Mesa CBP 19,449,954
NY JFK Air Cargo CBP 19,444,566
TX Laredo CBP Colombia 18,618,113
IL Chicago CBP 6,201,306
MA Boston CBP 3,587,766
PR San Juan Air CBP 3,306,025
TX Laredo CBP 3,114,610
PR Aguadilla CBP 1,794,641