Seed/bulb imports to the U.S.

Lee Poulsen
Thu, 25 Jan 2007 17:21:32 PST
On Jan 25, 2007, at 6:07 AM, Myke Ashley-Cooper wrote:

> Here in South Africa, our postal authorities are too stupid or lazy to 
> open parcels and seed arrives regularly without any hassle. However . 
> . . . we are selling up to emigrate to Tallahassee and I'm thinking 
> that the extra spare seed I have will merely be packed into the 40 
> foot container and won't be found! Maybe you can advise me how to do 
> it legally as the seed originates in most cases from the PBS or other 
> American suppliers. If I bring South African bulbs, that's another 
> story, I guess?

If you have permits (which are free) and can get a phyto for all your 
bulbs and plants (which I don't know how much they charge for in South 
Africa), it's really really easy IMO, especially if you're bringing 
them with you. Even if you don't live close to the Inspection Station 
that the seeds or plants will go to. You might be able to drive to it 
in a not unreasonable amount of time and pick them up. Or you can 
always pay to ship them from the station (probably Miami?) to your home 
domestically. With the seed import permit, you could actually mail them 
to yourself ahead of time and pick them up after you got here or just 
pay to have them ship them on to your new home. There are almost no 
restrictions on seeds (most of the restricted ones tend to be a few 
crop/fruit/vegetable items), and there is no charge for the inspection 
or the permit.

For all plants and bulbs not on the prohibited list (which is also 
pretty small IMO, relatively speaking--again it's crop/food plants or 
plants of commercial interest like a number of plants that are in the 
florist/flower trade, timber, things like that) other than a standard 
plant import permit (which is also free), the only necessity is a 
phytosanitary certificate for all the items. If your plants/bulbs are 
observably pest-free and have no soil on the roots or bulbs, the 
inspection is completely straightforward and is also free. Basically, 
the only thing that causes problems for us Americans in importing just 
about anything from any country is getting that phyto in the country 
they're coming from.

Since Japan will do phyto inspections at the Tokyo International 
Airport in Narita for free right before you fly out of the country, it 
was easy for me to bring back plants and bulbs I got there on two 
different occasions. At this end, I handed them over, along with a copy 
of my permit and the phyto certificate, to the USDA inspection agents 
who took them to their facility and the next business day (important!) 
I got a phone call saying I could drive over and pick them up. It 
really was that easy and didn't cost me a thing.

There are some logistics you might have to work out. But other than 
that there is nothing very difficult about the process--unlike 
importing an animal, or like the Australians have to do to import bulbs 
or plants. And it's much cheaper than what they have to pay for 
quarantining the plants and everything.

Good luck!
--Lee Poulsen
Pasadena, California, USDA Zone 10a

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