Plant Health Regulation (EU) 2016/2031: Effective from 14 December 2019

As part of the Smarter Rules for Safer Food package of regulations, The Plant Health Regulation (PHR) applies across all EU member states from 14 December 2019 and was implemented in the UK in line with our commitment to maintaining high standards of biosecurity.

The new Plant Health Regulation and Official Controls Regulation are given effect in Northern Ireland by the making of the The Plant Health (Official Controls and Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020. These regulations first came into effect in Northern Ireland on 14 December 2019.

The PHR and OCR affect all UK businesses involved in the production, manufacture and supply of plants, seeds, timber (including the manufacture and repair of wood packaging to international standard ISPM15) and plant products. Under the new Regulation, such businesses are referred to as a Professional Operators (PO) and must be registered with the relevant competent authority. In Northern Ireland, PO registration should be with Forest Service Plant Health Inspection Branch (FS PHIB).

Registering as a Professional Operator

Businesses trading in plants for planting or horticultural plant products should register by contacting their local Plant Health Inspector or FS PHIB. You will be sent a PH1 form and asked to complete all the relevant parts. You may also request permission to be authorised to issue plant passports.

Businesses dealing in Wood and Bark products including Wood Packaging Material  (WPM) can register under the new plant health regulations using the form available here (guidance notes included). Please indicate on the form if you wish to receive authorisation to issue plant passports.

Guidance for Home Gardeners and Amateur Growers

Under PHR 2016/2031, the term “professional operator” refers to anyone who plants, breeds, grows, markets, moves, dispatches or processes plants and plant products as part of their professional and legally responsible activities. 

If you share plants from your home propagation or personal collection with others, even if you recover P&P or delivery costs from the recipients, you would not be considered a “professional operator” for the purposes of PHR 2016/2031.  Hence, you would not be required to register with DAERA Forest Service Plant Health Inspection Branch.

For further explanation, including examples of who may or may not be required to register as a professional operator, Defra guidance notes are available by clicking here.

Any queries about this can be emailed to

Authorisation to issue Plant Passports

Some Professional Operators will be required to issue plant passports in the course of their business. In Northern Ireland they must be authorised to do so by FS PHIB. Authorised Professional Operators are required to demonstrate knowledge of certain pests and diseases and of measures to control them, as well as having the facilities and equipment necessary to do so.

Businesses trading in plants for planting or horticultural plant products that are currently authorised to produce plant passports need not register again nor re-apply for authorisation but will be contacted with relevant information in the future. If you think your horticulture business may need to produce plant passports for the first time under the new legislation, please contact your local plant health inspector or FS PHIB. Authorisation to issue plant passports will be granted if all the requirements are met. If successful, you will receive a separate letter authorising you to issue plant passports.

Professional operators trading in forestry wood and bark products who wish to become authorised to issue plant passports should undertake an online eLearning module which details the necessary knowledge and outlines your obligations. Satisfactory completion of this module results in a pass certificate. Evidence of successful completion by a named individual associated with your business should be forwarded to Forest Service Plant Health at to complete your authorisation.

Plant Passports

The PHR extends the use of plant passports to all plants for planting. It also sets out a new format for plant passports, details of which can be found here. This may require some changes for businesses currently authorised to produce plant passports and may require some professional operators who have previously not needed authorisation to apply for authorisation.

Northern Ireland Protected Zones

An area within the EU can be recognized as a protected zone (PZ) for a specific quarantine pest by the European Commission if the pest is present in a part of the EU territory but not in others. When an area has protected zone status additional restrictions are in place to prevent the establishment of the quarantine pest in question. Usually this means the addition of a PZ code specific to the pest onto the plant passport, which certifies that the requirements of the additional restrictions have been fulfilled. Relevant host plants are not allowed to enter any PZ without this code. Under the new Regulation, the old coding system is replaced with either the EPPO code for the pest in question, or the full scientific name of the pest. Northern Ireland has PZ status for 23 different pests, including several that GB does not have a PZ for.

Professional operators based in Northern Ireland who are authorised to issue plant passports must make sure that the relevant requirements for specific protected zones are met in full before putting the PZ code onto passports and attaching them to plants destined for any other PZ in the EU. The full list of PZs recognised in the EU can be found here.

Regulated Pest Lists

Union Quarantine Pests

These are pests which are not present in the EU territory or have only limited distribution but which have to potential to become established and to cause unacceptable economic, environmental or social impacts. These pests have a sufficiently clear taxonomic identity and feasible methods of control are available. The full list of Union Quarantine Pests can be found here.

Priority Pests

Twenty union quarantine pests have been designated as ‘priority pests’ under the PHR based on the severity of their potential economic, environmental or social impact in the Union territory. These pests must be surveyed for annually and contingency plans must be drawn up for each. Information must be available to the public regarding these pests and regular simulation exercises performed. The list of priority pests can be found here.

Regulated Non-Quarantine Pests (RNQPs)

These are pests which are present in the EU territory, are mainly spread through specific plants for planting and have an unacceptable economic impact as regards the intended use for those plants for planting. The taxonomic identity of the pest is established and feasible methods of control are available but it cannot also be a Union quarantine pest. The full list of RNQPs can be found here.

Reporting Plant Pests and Disease

Where a Union quarantine pest or a pest for which Northern Ireland has a protected zone is suspected or found to be present in Northern Ireland, both Professional Operators and the general public have an obligation under the Plant Health Regulation to notify Forest Service Plant Health in order that effective and timely action may be taken.

Import of Plants and Plant Products

Preventing the inadvertent introduction of potentially damaging plant pests and diseases through trade remains extremely important. The new Plant Health Regulation has extended the materials for which a phytosanitary certificate is required for import into the EU. This now includes vehicles used for agricultural or forestry purposes, cut flowers, seeds for sowing, fresh fruit and vegetable products and all plants for planting. The full lists are set out in Annex XI and Annex XII of Commission Implementing Regulation 2019/2072. Some plants, plant products and soil or growing media remain prohibited to import from some or all third countries, as set out in Annex VI. Additionally, there is a list of plants and plant products that is considered particularly high risk as host materials and are prohibited from entry into the EU from all third countries until such a time that a full risk assessment can show that the risk is reduced to an acceptable level.

Bringing Plants into Northern Ireland in Personal Luggage

A phytosanitary certificate is now required for small quantities of plants and plant products carried in passenger luggage from outside of the EU and intended for personal use. Bringing soil and certain plants and plant products is prohibited from outside the EU. A small range of fruits (Durians, Dates, Pineapple, Coconut and Bananas) are permitted. Bringing some plants and plant products into Northern Ireland from areas within the EU is restricted because of the NI Protected Zone status in place against a range of pest and diseases. More details of what is allowed to be brought from where is available here. DAERA inspectors at airports remain empowered to seize any materials deemed to be a potential risk to plant health at their discretion.






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