MIAMI — Flower sales are in full bloom with only three days until Valentine's Day. And most flowered ordered around the country land in South Florida first.
Boxes of bouquets were offloaded and lowered onto the tarmac at Miami International Airport on Thursday in the final days before Valentine’s Day.
From there, the fresh flowers, which were imported into the United States, were sent into a warehouse where U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists take over.
And the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping them busy.
"We heard there’s a lot more flowers being sent to people because they haven’t been able to be with relatives," said Emir Pineda, the trade and logistics manager at Miami International Airport.
Miami is the busiest hub for shipments of flower imports.
Last year between Jan. 1 and Feb. 15 alone, 1.1 billion flowers landed in South Florida.
This is peak season for flowers, but throughout the year, nine out of 10 stems entering the U.S. come through Miami before eventually being sent across the county.
Customs and Border Protection said the majority of flowers coming in are safe, but the agriculture specialists bang the bouquets, weeding out any bad blooms.
"Dislodge any pests that may be on the flowers," said Edward Putland.
Because even one hitchhiking pest or plant disease can cause significant damage to American agriculture.
"For example, corn, wheat, and all those main crops we depend on, these pests can devastate big areas of these types of crops," said Abel Serrano, the CPB brand chief for Agriculture Air Cargo.
We’re told CBP spots about 16,000 pests a year.
"So we’re a critical component of the logistics chain and the importation of flowers," Pineda said.
These men and women on the front lines preventing possibly billions in damage, and keeping the critters out before these flowers are sent to your sweetheart.