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The year 2012 started on a good note as importers continued to receive their Andean Trade Preference & Drug Eradication Act duty refunds that were granted in November 2011. This provided a great confidence boost for the industry in the beginning of the year.

The 2012 Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day season did not have the weather-related issues that the floral trade had been faced with in previous years. This allowed the industry to feel confident about the great product it was providing to the consumer.

boldt-2012Christine BoldtThe U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was implemented in May 2013, which gave the flower importers permanent duty-free status of their flowers from Colombia. But this left Ecuador as the only country covered under ATPDEA, which is set to expire in July 2013. Ecuador currently is not negotiating a free trade agreement with the United States, so this lends uncertainty to the future of duty-free flowers from Ecuador.

In the past two years, flower importers and the Association of Floral Importers of Florida participated in a pilot program to show that working together with the Customs & Border Protection agency on the documentation for imports, we can cut paperwork inspection time by 50 percent if a few changes are adopted. The final paper and results were presented to the World Customs Organization in June 2012. AFIF attended and presented the trade results.

The group was highly praised by attendees for showing that the industry can work with the government and make changes that benefit all involved and still fulfill the Customs mission of protecting U.S. borders. This success led to Customs wanting to take the work a step further and offering the flower industry an opportunity to work on another pilot in their new simplified entry program.

AFIF and its broker members are working with Customs to have the pilot ready to test after Mother’s Day 2013. The faster these changes can be adopted by the entire importing community, the faster the paperwork processing can be for all perishable imports.

Previously, AFIF published the Cut Flower Minimum Guidelines and Standards to provide a basic guide for flowers sold through AFIF members, who hoped the minimum standards would ultimately become industry standards. AFIF members have been working on a new version of the guidelines and standards guide. Members will continue to work on this project and hope to publish the new standards by the end of 2013.

Importers are looking forward to a great 2013 and hoping that U.S. consumers have more confidence and make more discretionary purchases to include flowers in their everyday lives.

The industry’s goal for 2013 should be to demonstrate how we can work together to sell more flowers to more people so everyone will benefit.

Christine Boldt is executive vice president of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida in Miami. She can be reached at 305/593-2383.