MIAMI (CBSMiami) — With love in the air and Valentine’s Day less than a week away, more flowers than people have touched down at Miami International Airport in recent days.
“Over 500 million stems come through this facility in Miami for the rest of the county,” said CBP spokesperson Migdalia Arteaga.
The majority of the flowers have been flown in from Colombia, Ecuador and other parts of South America.
“Most of the flowers that we process here, they are from Colombia but we get them from Ecuador, Mexico, Netherlands those are the top 4 countries,” said Assistant Port Director Linda Cullen.
But before they can be shipped out they must be inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents who check for things that could harm the agricultural and floral industries in this country, like diseases and certain insects.
“If you allow a pest that is not native to this country to come in, it has no real enemies and so it can reproduce and cause havoc in the agriculture,” said Arteaga.
Since most of the incoming flowers are destined for Valentine’s Day bouquets and displays, the inspections are done with special care. Inspectors say they take their time and handle with care so when the flowers end up on someone’s table or in a vase they’re actually in good shape.”
During the inspection, each batch of stems is given a couple of taps to see what falls out. Sometimes they find bugs, but there have been other surprises too – like snakes.
Nationwide, nearly a billion flowers enter the country in the three weeks before Valentine’s Day with about half of them ending up in refrigerated storage facilities in South Florida.
“When it comes to flowers, 9 out of every 10 stems imported to the United States comes through this airport MIA,” said Deputy Director of Miami-Dade Aviation Ken Pyatt.