Cocaine is probably the last thing most people think about when buying roses.
But every year, police and growers in Colombia must work around the clock to make sure that the romance of Valentine‘s Day isn‘t spoiled by the drug, the nation‘s other major export along with flowers.
As much as 330,000 pounds (150 metric ton)s of flowers leave Colombia on 30-plus jumbo cargo planes daily starting in late January, presenting an opportunity for the country‘s ingenious drug cartels to penetrate the frenzied, overworked chain of suppliers and stash drugs amid the roses.
“Without a doubt we‘re a target,” said Augusto Solano, president of the Colombian flower exporters‘ association.
Security protocols that the flower industry developed with police begin the moment that refrigerated trucks carrying rose buds depart dozens of flower farms dotting the waterlogged savannah surrounding Colombia‘s capital. Once the flowers are inside the airport, 100 police offices equipped with 15 drug-sniffing dogs and electronic scanners inspect each shipment.
Last year, police said they found almost 200 pounds (90 kilograms) of cocaine hidden in flower boxes.