Roses continue to be the number one flower that American consumers demand and roses are also the top imported fresh-cut flower into the United States.
Last year there were 5.109 billion stems of flowers that came into the United States and at least 38 percent of those stems were roses. They can arrive in either straight boxes of roses, in rose bouquets, or in mixed bouquets, and there were over 1.95 billion stems that arrived in 2013 in straight rose boxes or rose bouquets, but roses that arrive in mixed bouquets are not accounted for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Most imported roses are from Colombia and Ecuador. Colombia accounted for 54 percent of straight rose boxes and 70 percent of rose bouquets, while Ecuador accounted for 42 percent of straight rose boxes and 29 percent of rose bouquets.
In the late 1990s, the Association of Floral Importers of Florida worked with the USDA and border inspections regarding the arrival of imported roses and other large volume, low-risk flowers. The USDA did years of data collection and in 2002 decided that roses would be included in the Cut Flower Line Release Program and they would be inspected randomly, three times per month, instead of every day, every flight, every farm. This only pertained to roses that arrived from large volume countries, which included Colombia, Ecuador and Guatemala. The program continues to be critical today because it enables imported flowers to be inspected and released in an expeditious manner.
Miami International Airport is the No. 1 airport for flower imports into the United States. Of all flowers imported, 91.4 percent arrive in Miami. This is great news for the industry because Miami has 24/7 service from Customs & Border Protection, has expanded hours for the USDA, has identifiers that work for the USDA who have lots of years of experience in identifying pests and can dispose of pests quicker than any other port, has importers housed within a five-mile radius of the airport, and has more than 30 truck lines that are established in hauling flowers from Miami to the rest of the United States.
As the industry continues to produce new varieties of roses, and roses continue to be the No. 1 flower in the United States, consumers can rest assured that they are receiving the best that the world has to offer.
Christine Boldt is executive vice president of the Association of Floral Importers of Florida. She can be contacted at Christine@afifnet.org.