Finance and Business

How 1.1 Billion Flowers Are Imported And Inspected In The US For Valentine’s Day | Big Business

every year more than a billion flowers come into the u.s for valentine’s day most come from massive farms in colombia but these roses have as little as 48 hours to get cut and flown to miami before they wilt they have a short lifetime and thus require the most rapid form of transportation and that is by air it takes a vast network of farmers air cargo coolers and customs officers working 24 7. leading up to valentine’s day the amount of flowers come into the airport double and triple treating these flowers right is even a matter of protecting the us the danger of an exotic pest to establish in the united states our food supply is affected from greenhouse to gift we followed the journey of your valentine’s day bouquet 70 of cut flowers imported to the us come from colombia from farms like this one with over 2 800 acres elite flower is the largest privately owned farm in the country the temperate climate high altitude and 12 hours of sunlight create the perfect growing conditions for these blooms that would fill up 414 boeing 767s and even within roses there are a hundred varieties out in the greenhouse socially distanced workers inspect each flower from petal to stem for rot or bugs colors consistency in the armada using shears workers cut each flower off one by one to slow that decay the flowers are sent to a cold room for a minimum of 12 hours this begins what’s known as the cold chain el exit lomas constante extra leaves and thorns are stripped off the stem using this tool workers wear thick gloves to guard themselves from thorns elite flower is buzzing year round but it gets especially busy in february in the weeks leading up to valentine’s day the company adds an extra 4 000 employees and generates 90 of its profits elite partners with ups to fly these flowers to the u.s each plane can hold up to a million flowers but airlines like avianca or latam are also big flower movers 89 of all flowers entering the united states by air came through miami international airport that’s business that’s that’s money after a four-hour journey this temperature-controlled atom airlines flight landed in miami this airplane arrives with more than 50 tons of flower from colombia and then we start to move the one of the 23 pallets that we have here to this machine to downloading the flowers the flowers end up in this cold warehouse held at the same temperature as that airplane the most important thing for us is to maintain the cool change there are almost 400 000 square feet of cooling facilities at miami airport that were built because of the flower industry flowers represent our largest commodity coming in next customs and border protection checks flowers from every flight over 84 000 units for inspection here agricultural specialists like stanley pull just two percent of the flowers from each flight to inspect we have a sampling protocol we know for sure that that two percent is representing the 100 of the flowers that are coming in inspections are done quickly so the flowers don’t wilt or get handled too much we make sure that our inspection area is you know cooler the temperature is good for the flowers and for our personnel one by one officers open up boxes and remove the bundles wearing ppe to protect against diseases and pesticides they take a bouquet of flowers and they remove the plastic and then they shake it gently they have to get a white background and if anything falls they’ll have to absorb if there is any insects but at the same time they are doing the visual observation to see whether the leaves have any kind of signs of diseases like a bacterial or fungal disease if there’s a fungal inspection you see some rusty patches she has seen a sign of maybe a disease now she has to use a loop to magnify even more important to look out for bugs leaf miners caterpillars fruit flies and beetles critters that may seem harmless but if they got through they could wreak havoc on the u.s agricultural system every year united states spend billions of dollars in eradication programs in order to eradicate those pests from 2007 to 2014 florida’s orange and grapefruit growers lost 2.9 billion dollars trying to eradicate the asian citrus psyllid so if an officer finds something we kind of collect it in a vial with alcohol for preservation that specimen goes to usda department of agriculture for identification and for the flowers the importer has basically three choices one is to return to origin two is to fumigate or third is to destroy destruction is the last resource treatment is most often fumigation in an average day we find around 50 to 60 different pests some flowers like the eucalyptus are high risk for carrying hitchhikers while roses are less risky after the fumigation take place then the rest of the shipment can go to the public cbp inspects flowers every day but on valentine’s last season we inspected over 700 million stems of flowers if cbp officers don’t find anything they bring the flowers back to that cold chain warehouse and when the customers arrive here we take the flowers and go to the literary area to load the flower directly to the truck the majority of these flowers are trucked to the northeast or west coast of the u.s where folks like you and me can treat our loved ones to a colorful bouquet for valentine’s day
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