— -- The road of the rose is a long one.
Approximately eight out of every 10 cut flowers in the United States come from fields in South America, making their way through security screenings at Miami International Airport before being shipped to florists around the U.S.
After President George H.W. Bush signed the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act in 1991, growers in South American countries including Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru were incentivized to export products other than cocaine. With reduced tariffs on legal imports to the U.S., the flower business in South America blossomed.
The international shift in the flower trade was dramatic. Back in the 1970s, the U.S. produced 1.2 billion blooms of major flowers like roses and carnations, and imported just 100 million. By the 2000s, the U.S. imported 2 billion blooms and grew just 200 million.
Flower shipments peak during the three-week periods before both Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. More than 22 million flowers a day pass through Miami International Airport for a random screening process that involves “spanking” the flowers to ensure no unwanted pests are hidden behind the leaves.