Austin in Texas, among other places across the country, gets the lion's share of its Valentine's Day flowers from South America, specifically Colombia and Ecuador. These flowers, including roses, mixed bouquets, and chrysanthemums, are inspected thoroughly at Miami International Airport (MIA), the primary entry point for these imported flowers.
During the peak Valentine's Day season, MIA operates around the clock, receiving and processing shipments. After offloading from the planes, the boxes of flowers are moved to an exceptionally cold warehouse space. Here, agriculture inspectors carefully unwrap each bouquet, tapping the sides to dislodge any insects, pests, or illicit substances.
Image source: Verónica Zaragovia / WLRN
Abel Serrano, an assistant director of agriculture at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, explains the process. "If there is something there, we collect them, send it to the lab, identify [it] and move to the next inspection," he says. Identifying and removing harmful pests is essential to protect domestic crops, which, if damaged, could lead to increased food prices.
This trade is crucial for Colombia, the world's second-largest flower exporter after Holland. Javier Mesa, who represents Colombia’s association of flower farmers, Asocolflores, notes the importance of this period, "We make it or we break it for the whole year, if we don’t have the execution and the flowers on time to complete the orders."
Image source: Verónica Zaragovia / WLRN /
In terms of volume, the numbers are mind-boggling. Last year, MIA received 42,659 tons of flowers worth $208.4 million in just one month. Annually, MIA handles 89 percent of the U.S. flower imports, totalling 327,881 tons and valued at over $1.5 billion.
Federal officials predict that this year's flower imports could surpass those of the last three years, indicating a bustling Valentine's Day season.
While navigating the massive world of Valentine's Day flower imports is fascinating, if you're looking for a more personal touch to your Valentine's Day bouquet this year, don't miss the chance to explore an engaging blog post: "4 Flowers to Add to Your Valentine’s Day Bouquet". You'll discover lesser-known flowers that can elevate your bouquet from common to captivating. Click here to add some special touches to your Valentine's Day arrangement.
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