Import and export of plants

The importation of plants and plant products into the European Community is regulated with the aim of protecting plant health.

Plant Imports

Imports from countries outside the European Union

The importation of particular plants and plant products from certain third countries (countries outside of the European Community) is prohibited.

In general, all plants and some categories of plant produce that are permitted to enter Northern Ireland from third countries must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate. This confirms that the plants or plant produce to which it relates have been officially inspected in the country of origin (or country of dispatch), comply with statutory requirements for entry into the UK, are free from quarantine pests and diseases, and are substantially free from other organisms.

Businesses or individuals wishing to import plants from countries outside of the EU must register with DAERA. This is primarily to facilitate the inspection of plants imported from non EU countries directly into Northern Ireland

At importation, DAERA Plant Health Inspectors carry out documentary and identity checks on plants and controlled plant products from non EU countries. There is a charge for these inspections

Imports of plants and controlled plant products must be notified to DAERA no less than 3 working days in advance of arrival, using a Plant Health Release Certificate request form.

A Certificate of Conformity is required for certain fruit and vegetable produce which is subject to a 'Specific Marketing Standard' (SMS) before it is released from the port.

Imports from countries within the European Union

Requirements to notify imports to Northern Ireland from EU countries and Switzerland of certain tree and woody plant genera.

As of 1st of December 2018, there is a notification requirement for certain tree species and woody plant species imported directly from countries within the European Union. These are tree species within the genera of Castanea (Sweet Chestnut), Fraxinus (Ash), Pinus (Pine), Platanus (Plane), Prunus (e.g. Cherry, Plum, Laurel), Quercus (Oak) and Ulmus (Elm). As of the 28th of March 2019, Olea (Olive) has also been added to this list as it is an important host species for the bacterial pathogen Xylella fastidiosa This requirement also applies to imports from Switzerland, but not to relevant plants grown in Great Britain.

The relevant legislation is Article 20 of the Plant Health Order (Northern Ireland) 2018. Equivalent legislation is also in place in the rest of the UK. It is important to note that Northern Ireland has Protected Zone status for certain pests and diseases associated with many of these genera and relevant passporting requirements apply. Please note that at present, there is effectively a prohibition on the movement of any Fraxinus plants for planting into or within Northern Ireland.

Landings of plants for planting of the relevant genera must be notified to DAERA prior to or up to 4 days after landing in Northern Ireland using the form found below.

Imports from EU member states after EU exit

After the UK leaves the EU, registration will also be required for importers who import plants from EU member states. It is strongly recommended that importers do so in advance of EU exit in order to minimise delays in tradeflow. If consignments of plants have a point of entry into the UK other than Northern Ireland, the importer must register with the relevant plant health authority in charge of that point of entry. For example, if the plants are landed at a port in England or Wales before being transported to Northern Ireland, the importer should register with DEFRA's Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) using their Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates from the Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate (PEACH) system. If plants are landed in the Republic of Ireland and are brought to Northern Ireland over land, the importer should register with DAERA.

Application form for registration for importers of plant health controlled plants and plant products from EU member states after EU exit.

Controlled plants and plant produce that are imported from the EU after EU exit will be subject to similar requirements as imports from non EU countries (see above). This includes all plants that currently require a plant passport. Imports of controlled plants and plant produce must be notified to DAERA (or other relevant UK plant health authority) before arrival. This is done using the Plant Health Release Certificate request form in the same manner as for imports of plants from non EU countries. A phytosanitary certificate issued by the exporting country will most likely have to accompany consignments of controlled plants.

 If you would like information on importing plants please phone 0300 200 7847 or email planthealth@daera-ni.gov.uk

Plant Exports

Exports of certain plants may be prohibited by the importing country. Where exports are permitted, the plants or plant products must normally be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate. This confirms that the plants or plant products to which it relates have been officially inspected in the country of origin (or country of dispatch), comply with statutory requirements for entry into the importing country, are free from quarantine pests and diseases, and are substantially free from other organisms. It is the responsibility of the individual wishing to export the plant or plant related products to check with the importing (receiving) country what statutory requirments must be met to allow entry to that particular country.

Businesses or individuals wishing to export plants to third countries (countries outside of the European Community) must request a phytosanitary certificate from DAERA. As it may be necessary to carry out certain tests before issuing a phytosanitary certificate, please contact DAERA at the earliest opportunity if considering an export. After the UK leaves the EU, phytosanitary certificates will most likely also be needed for EU regulated plants and plant produce moving from the UK into the EU. A small number of plants and plant products could also be prohibited from entering the EU from the UK. 

Plant passporting

Plants and plant products may move freely within the European Single Market, without inspections at national borders.

However plant materials which are considered more likely to harbor quarantine pests and diseases require a plant passport to facilitate their movement. Where required, a passport is needed both for movements within and between member states, and additional requirements apply for movements into and within EC Protected Zones. Plant passports are a guarantee that the material meets the plant health requirements for freedom from ‘quarantine’ organisms.

Plant passports may only be issued by growers who are registered and authorised for the purpose. Authorisation is granted on the basis of inspections of plants, premises and records by a Plant Health Inspection Branch Inspector.

If you would like any further information on the DAERA Plant Passporting system, please phone 0300 200 7847                                                        or Email planthealth@daera-ni.gov.uk.

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