A new 12,700-square foot refrigeration facility for storage of flowers transported internationally has opened at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

The refrigeration facility is said to be the largest at any West Coast airport and is expected to facilitate the expansion of the local flower trade as well as reduce local consumer costs for flowers, city and airport officials said. The $1.1-million refrigeration unit, which was built by Mercury Air Cargo, is located at Mercuryís Avion Drive Cargo Facility on LAX property.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa joined Los Angeles World Airports and Mercury Air Group officials to mark the facilityís opening April 2nd.

ìMercury Air Group has made an important and smart investment that will open Los Angeles to new markets and new trade,î said Villaraigosa. ìItís good for business, itís good for the environment, and it pushes Los Angeles closer towards a sustainable model of environmentally-conscious growth.î

The new refrigeration unit was designed to accommodate a projected 8,500 tons of new perishable products annually arriving on cargo freighters from South America. Currently, the perishable products flown to LAX by LAN Cargo are one quarter to one half of the projected quantity because of lack of sufficient refrigeration at LAX to accommodate the flowers.

The additional volume of flowers arriving from Bogot·, Colombia, and Quito, Ecuador, will now be shipped to LAX instead of previously entering the U.S. at Miami International Airport.

Direct air shipment to LAX is expected to create a shift in the U.S. flower supply chain and establish LAX as a new West Coast hub for the flower trade by saving considerable time and making flowers available to consumers on a faster, fresher and less-expensive basis, city and airport officials said.

The new refrigeration facility, kept at a chilled temperature of 35 degrees, will accommodate the storage of large amounts of flowers, and also allow workers to separate the flower shipments and prepare them for direct distribution from LAX to flower shops and markets throughout California and the western U.S.

ìLAX is the ideal timesaving location for flower distribution sourced from South America to San Diego, Los Angeles, Portland and other West Coast cities,î said airport department executive director Gina Marie Lindsey. ìThis direct-to-market air service means lower shipping costs that are certain to bring down the cost of flowers to the consumer.î