While the government shutdown seriously affected hundreds of thousands of people directly (and continues to do so), its impact is still lingering in other forms and some issues are just now coming into view. It turns out that even our holidays aren’t beyond the reach of the shutdown’s impact. If you’re thinking about sending, or hoping to receive, flowers for Valentine’s Day this year, you may be in for a bit of a shock—and that includes sticker shock.
The majority of imported perishable goods enter the U.S. through the port of Miami, including 89% of all imported flowers. Upon arrival, these goods are inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). In fact, in the days leading up to Valentine’s Day, floral importers typically work with CBP to hire additional inspectors just to keep up with the tidal wave of flowers arriving from South America. While inspectors were on the job throughout the shutdown, their numbers were limited, which made keeping up with incoming goods nearly impossible. The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is responsible for inspecting non-perishable goods from industrial supplies to toys, also experienced disruptions to their operations.
With perishable items sitting at the border for much longer that usual, businesses are losing goods to spoilage. One florist lost five thousand dollars worth of flowers when her order was left to sit in an area that wasn’t refrigerated. When a business—whether a grocery store or a florist—has their inventory thrown out, they inevitably raise prices to cover their costs, meaning that consumers feel the pain too. With the biggest holiday for flowers just days away, shoppers will soon see whether the ramifications of the shutdown will mean fewer options and higher prices as they buy bouquets for their sweethearts.
Speaking of sweethearts, in an unfortunate development unrelated to the shutdown, the New England Confectionary Company has shuttered the factory where their Sweetheart candies are made and none of the iconic treats will be produced this year. Given all these tough realities, it’s probably best that we have low expectations when we head to the store or go online to order Valentine’s Day must-haves this month.
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