Every February 14th people in the U.S. celebrate Valentine’s Day, when candy, flowers, and gifts are exchanged between loved ones in the name of St. Valentine. Fresh-cut flowers take center stage on this day, with roses, tulips, and mixed bouquets changing hands across millions of Americans.
In 2019, 28% of American adults spent nearly $2 billion on flowers and plants as Valentine’s Day gifts. The most popular flowers are roses, at 84% of total flowers purchased, with red roses being the most popular at 69% of all roses purchased. Other popular options include mixed flowers (45%); tulips, carnations, or lilies (41%); and plants (29%).
This year, Rio Roses predicts a strong showing for Valentine’s Day flowers as people continue to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 and not always being able to visit loved ones in person.
“With the ongoing COVID concerns, people will be less likely to head out to that romantic Valentine’s Day dinner and will want to spend it at home instead,” the company says. “That means creating a romantic setting with — what else — more flowers!”
A Monumental Undertaking
Starting in January, more than 1 billion cut stems transiting through the nation’s busiest ports. Last year, the top three countries of origin for these fresh-cut flowers were Colombia, Ecuador, and the Netherlands. “Behind the scenes, an intricate choreography of logistics parties that rely on air transport and refrigeration every step of the way makes their gift of love possible,” American Shipper states.
The majority of flowers are processed through Miami, New York, and Los Angeles, with Miami International Airport being the top location for cut flower processing and for intercepting actionable pests. “Besides its proximity to key growing regions, Miami is the logistics hub for flowers because of the supporting inxfrastructure at the airport and throughout South Florida that enables efficient and safe handling of delicate products,” American Shipper notes.
In 2019 alone, agriculture specialists inspected 2.5 million stems and over 5,000 actionable pests. “Imported flowers may carry hitchhiking pests and diseases that could cause millions of dollars in damage to the U.S. flower industry and beyond,” CBP points out. “While the vast majority of flowers entering the country are safe, even one hitchhiking pest or plant disease can cause significant damage to American agriculture.
If pests or diseases are found, the shipments may be treated and released, re-exported, or destroyed. CBP says that examples of past interceptions found by agriculture specialists include species of Noctuidae and Aphididae, commonly known as the Owlet Moth and aphids respectively.
Streamlining the Process
To shippers that are importing flowers for Valentine’s Day deliveries, CBP says it’s important to know which flowers and floral fillers are not allowed to be brought into the U.S. Some of the prohibited cut flowers hailing from Mexico, for instance, include chrysanthemums, mock orange, choysia (ornamental filler), cedar, and juniper.
If any of these prohibited flowers are imported, CBP says agriculture specialists will have to remove the stems from the flower arrangement. Needless to say, this will render the products pretty much useless in terms of presenting them as gifts.
Here are some other important points that shippers should keep in mind:
- Submit complete and accurate documentation. Without the proper documentation, your flower shipment may not even make it to the agricultural station for a full stem inspection.
- Fill out your packing lists completely. At minimum, your packing list should include information about the cartons, pallets, or other shipping containers; measurements (i.e., gross and tare weights for every item); and details about the merchandise that each individual package contains.
- Use busier entry ports. Because they handle the bulk of the flower imports coming from countries like Columbia and Ecuador, the ports of Miami and Los Angeles may be better equipped to handle the onslaught of Valentine’s Day flowers.
- Don’t wait until it’s too late. Ship on time and be ready to address any questions or concerns as they come up.
These tips will help ensure a smooth process as flowers enter the U.S. and go through the CBP inspection process. “Most shoppers don’t stop to think where the abundance of beautiful flowers come from,” transportation management systems (TMS) provider Kuebix states, “but it takes a lot more than love in the air to get stores stocked in time.”