Valentine’s Day Flowers Keep CBP Busy

By Miguel Moreno

NEW YORK—Agriculture Specialists from Customs and Border Protection unpacked, smacked, and inspected numerous stem-cut flowers on Feb. 12.

International floral shipments peak on Valentine’s and Mother’s Day at the JFK Airport. Getting tens of millions of flowers may seem overly romantic, but to agriculture specialists like Peter Pramberger, it’s about protecting the homeland.

“Well, it can be an enormous financial problem for an industry,” said Pramberger in an interview with NTD News. “For example, certain diseases that we have coming in here such as citrus canker. What they can do is they can wipe out the oranges, the lemons, all of the citrus crops in the United States.”

The JFK Port of Entry has inspected over 21 million stem-cut flowers in this fiscal year, according to a press release. Including Newark, since last October CBP has inspected over 65 million flowers from around the world.

CBP specialists
CBP Agriculture Specialists inspect flowers at the JFK Port of Entry in New York on Feb. 13, 2020. (Don Tran/NTD News)

Specialists inspected roses, eucalyptus, and other species of plants.

Insects and pests are also on CBP’s radar. If a pest is found, it’s preserved in alcohol and later documented. If the pest proves to be dangerous, the flowers it came with will be incinerated.

Pramberger’s been doing this for 15 years. He says the amount coming in is weighing down on them hard.

“We’re hiring 239 to 400 people every year for the next three years because we can’t keep up with the demand,” he said.

Only one box was quarantined during our visit. CBP also has a process for empty cardboard containers that contained potentially afflicted flowers to ensure that nothing harmful makes it through.