Human Flower Project

HFQ #11: A Freight Forwarder?

Transporting plants internationally takes special expertise. Can anyone help this farmer in Austria find a “travel agent” for sweet potato slips?


Do you know of a reliable freight forwarder with experience handling plants?

A reader in Austria writes:

“We are a family farm in Austria, trying to import young specialty plants from the U.S. for a farm-trial this year (ipomoea batatas ‘slips’; 2 or 3 palletts (450kg each), in May 2012, to be specific).

“The nursery in the US producing them for us has no experience in overseas shipping and could not find any freight forwarder willing to take on the shipment… they all claim they categorically “don’t do plants,” the nursery tells us. Neither have I found any freight forwarder this side of the Atlantic interested/willing to do this, much to my chagrin.

“Therefore, may I ask if you could maybe recommend a freight forwarder, specializing in plant-transport? Or, would you happen to know a possible source/weblink for such freight


“Thank you so very much, any help is very appreciated.”

With apologies, we had never heard of freight forwarders (wiki describes them as “travel agents for cargo.”) Plants being perishable and also, in many cases, subject to special customs rules and inspection requirements, a company experienced in human flower transportation projects is clearly in order.

Allen Bush, plantsman and friend, replied: “Exporting plants is a pain-in-the ass. I doubt there is a freight forwarding company who will handle this. The difficulty is that the plants - to my knowledge - need to be shipped from the point of origin. In other words, the nursery of origin generates all the paperwork. The biggest issue is the phyto inspection. These are usually done on site. I’m not sure, now, whether state or federal inspectors do this. And I don’t think the law allows for plants or propagules to be grown in one spot and shipped to a freight forwarder for export. The separate issue of customs declarations is another hurdle, but mostly bureaucratic and most times manageable though a nuisance.”

imageIpomoea batatas—sweet potato, in flower

Photo: via wiki

We found this link, simply from the yellow pages of Plant City, Florida,  but have no knowledge of these companies. And here’s another small directory.

Assuming Allen’s right (and he always is), the Plant City, Florida companies would be of no help, since it’s unlikely that the sweet potato slips will be coming from this particular locale.

Wiki informs us, “Similar to other countries, freight forwarders that handle international air freight will frequently be accredited with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) as a cargo agent however they must obtain an Indirect Air Carrier (IAC) certification from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).” Perhaps contacting the International Air Transport Association would be a way to proceed.

If anyone can recommend of a freight fowarder who handles plants traveling between the U.S. and Austria, please email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and we’ll pass along the information to our new acquaintance in Vienna. Thanks.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 02/02 at 11:42 AM


Commenting is not available in this channel entry.