They’re colorful, beautiful and a traditional gift for Mother’s Day.
But federal authorities say don’t be fooled because imported Mother’s Day flowers can often bring hidden dangers.
“Different types of flowers have different types of risks,” said U.S. Customs and Border Protection Assistant Port Director Abel Serrano.
Serrano oversees inspections at Miami International Airport. He says his officers are currently working around the clock to ensure dangerous bugs don’t enter the Sunshine State through flowers meant for Mother’s Day.
Federal authorities say it’s a concern because, every year around this time, imported flowers harboring foreign bugs threaten Florida’s multibillion-dollar citrus industry.
More than 90% of Mother’s Day flowers imported into the U.S. from Central and South America first come through MIA before they are trucked to various stores throughout Florida and the rest of North America, including Canada. And with these imports comes the risk of undetected bugs deemed dangerous to U.S. agriculture.
“There is always a threat out there. Biological pests evolve with time. They become resistant to pesticides. They adapt to a different host,” Serrano said.
This is why CBP officers with science backgrounds are working at all hours to physically and visibly inspect every flower stuffed in boxes before those boxes leave MIA. Serrano says they only get one chance to get it right before those flowers are trucked to stores across Florida.
“We try our best every day to make sure they are good quality and that we don’t get any exotic pests introduction into the U.S. that could damage our horticultural sector and that could potentially increase our prices,” Serrano said.
According to CBP data on threats to U.S. agriculture, exotic pests cause an annual loss of $138 billion.
Last year around this time right before Mother’s Day, CBP officers intercepted 1,400 pests, 900 of which were considered immediate threats to U.S. agriculture.