Currently, the United States produces more poinsettias than any other country, making approximately $260 million each year in sales, according to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune. However, in Mexico, people have an extremely difficult time selling poinsettias in the United States because of restrictions on importing Mexican soil. This despite the fact that Mexico is the country that originally started growing poinsettias and named the plant in the early 1800s, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
''It's our plant, but now they have the patents and the name, too,'' said Diana Esquivel, financial manager of Finaflor Nurseries in Cuernavaca, Mexico, in the article. “The ban has been around for decades. It probably dates from the early 20th century when modern quarantine laws went into effect. Meanwhile, poinsettia sales have been growing steadily in the United States: They rose from 56 million plants in 1992 to 68 million last year.”
At this point, the only poinsettias brought in from Mexico are the cuttings that are sent into the United States to be grown into finished plants by U.S. growers. According to the article, “A cutting costs about $.10 and a finished plant as much as $15 in the United States. A similar plant in Mexico sells for $2-5.”
“Officials at the Mexican Embassy in Washington have been lobbying the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow importation of plants with artificial soil, either the vermiculite nuggets found in some potting soil or a substitute made of ground-up coconut shells. Both would be sterilized before being used for exports, said Enrique Lobo, head of agricultural affairs at the embassy,” reported the Salt Lake Tribune. However, at this point Mexico has a similar ban in place on imports of U.S. soil.
“Especially frustrating to Mexican growers is that Canada is allowed to export potted poinsettias to the United States. In 1997, the two countries began a joint certification program for greenhouses, making it easier for plants to move across the U.S.-Canadian border,” the article stated.
Though Mexico is not considered a Ralstonia-free country, the sanitation methods that are used to ensure clean stock plants is amazing. People use disinfectants, foot baths, change knives, etc. (For more on the sanitation methods in Mexico see the article “Dear Diary” in the April 2004 issue of GPN.) Because of the excellent sanitation methods used in Mexico a number of American breeder/marketer companies have facilities in the country that ship the materials into the United States. At this point, there is more work to be done on Mexico’s end to get the poinsettia business into the United States. However, it is something growers and breeder/marketers should look out for in the future by possibly adding Mexico to the international competition list.