Cayman families hoping to unwrap their presents under a real Christmas tree this year could be out of luck.
Imports of trees for sale during the festive season have been held up after Department of Agriculture inspectors discovered “live pests” in several imported shipments. The department confirmed Tuesday that all shipments of imported trees, which typically come from Canada and the United States, were affected.
A spokesman for the department said it was currently working with importers to see if the trees could be treated to prevent the introduction of a new pest into the Cayman Islands. If and when Christmas trees can be released for sale depends on the outcome of those efforts.
“During normal routine inspections, the Department of Agriculture inspectors intercepted live pests of multiple species within imported shipments of Christmas trees. Further inspections have determined that all shipments of imported Christmas trees are affected,” the DoA said in a statement.
Every Bloomin’ Thing, one of the island’s biggest suppliers of Christmas trees, was telling customers last week that its trees were going to be destroyed because they had not passed inspection.
But owner Ricky Handal told the Compass Tuesday, the Department of Agriculture had agreed to work with the company to investigate the possibility of treating the trees to deal with the problematic bugs.
A shipping container of imported trees is currently under quarantine at Every Bloomin’ Thing garden center on Crewe Road as inspectors work to deal with the issue.
“Right now, they are working with us to see if they can pass,” Mr. Handal said. “I don’t know what will transpire. We are in the process of talking to the DOA and our supplier to see if the trees can pass.”
Other importers confirmed their trees had yet to be cleared by the Department of Agriculture, but seemed unaware of a larger issue.
Joe Thorne, manager of Cost-U-Less, said the company used a different supplier to other stores on island.
He said the shipment had been delayed in Miami and Puerto Rico, but had now arrived on island.
“We are hoping to get them inspected and cleared for sale by Thursday morning,” he said. “We have heard they have been more strict this year, but we are not anticipating any problems.”
Ricky Perez, a supervisor at Vigoro, said the center’s tree shipment was being held up by the Department of Agriculture, but he was also hopeful it would be cleared by the end of the week at the latest.
Trees4Life, another organization which brings in real Christmas trees for sale, was not available for comment yesterday, but had posted this update on its Facebook page: “Awaiting inspection can be an anxious time. Our containers are on site but it is up to the DOA at this point to clear them. Fingers crossed we get them cleared asap.”
According to the Department of Agriculture statement, “The Department has a regulatory mandate to prevent the entry of plant pests into the Cayman Islands and is currently working with importers to facilitate post entry treatment of these shipments in an effort to mitigate against the potential introduction of pest into our local environment. Depending on the outcome of the post-entry treatments, a determination will be made at that juncture in accordance with the Plants (Importation and Exportation) Law and international phytosanitary standards, as to the appropriate course of action.”