What are Official Controls?
Regulation (EU) 2017/625 (OCR) on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products, was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 15 March 2017. It entered into force on 14 December 2019 and replaced existing provisions for official controls across the agri-food chain previously contained in a number of different EU laws.
The OCR applies directly in Northern Ireland by virtue of the UK Withdrawal Agreement's Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland. In Great Britain the OCR has been retained in UK law, meaning that the same official controls on pesticides will apply across the whole of the UK.
For the first time, the OCR includes the requirements for authorisation, placing on the market and use of plant protection products, hereafter referred to as pesticides, and of any active substances, safeners, synergists, co-formulants and adjuvants, which they might consist of within the scope of official controls. The sustainable use of pesticides with the exception of pesticide application equipment is also included.
The OCR introduces a proactive, risk-based approach to checks undertaken by the Competent Authority to verify business compliance with the requirements set out in agri-food chain legislation. Controls may include audits, inspections of premises, checks on usage records and sampling and analysis of pesticides and produce treated with pesticides. Competent Authorities when planning their controls will take into account the operator's past record of compliance and the reliability of the operator's own checks.
Official controls will be performed in a manner that minimises the burden on businesses.
The Official Controls (Plant Protection Products) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020
The Official Controls (Plant Protection Products) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 [SR 2020 No. 360] (The Pesticides Official Controls Regulations) came into force on 31 December 2020 and implements the OCR in respect of official controls on pesticides, ensuring that DAERA can fulfil its obligations under, and enforce the pesticide related elements of, the OCR. Similar legislation has been laid to implement and enforce official controls for pesticides in Great Britain.
- provide for the exchange of information on official controls amongst other Competent Authorities in the United Kingdom and, where appropriate, EU Member States;
- confer powers on auditors and inspectors to allow them to verify the controls that have taken place. They also provide that it is an offence for someone to obstruct an auditor, inspector (or anyone who accompanies them) or provide false or misleading information;
- give DAERA the power to recover the costs from business owners for certain measures taken by the Department in performing official controls on business operators and costs incurred in carrying out its enforcement activities;
- set out the offences and penalties for obstructing auditors or inspectors and for providing false/misleading information.
The Pesticides Official Controls Regulations also establish a new legal requirement for operators to register with the Competent Authority and to provide a minimum amount of information regarding their business activities in relation to the placing on the market and use of pesticides.
Who will be responsible for enforcing the Pesticide Official Controls Regulations?
The Regulations designate DAERA as the Competent Authority responsible for the organisation and the performance of official controls and other official activities in Northern Ireland insofar as they relate to pesticides.
DAERA has the legislative powers to authorise any person or appoint them as an inspector to carry out enforcement activities on its behalf.
The pesticide official controls programme is currently in early development. Details will be provided in future communications, ahead of the control programme commencing. In developing the control programme, our goal will be to ensure inspections are focused on areas of greatest risk while minimising burdens on business. Enforcement of existing pesticide Regulations will remain in place at the current time.
Who will be subject to the Pesticides Official Controls Regulations?
If your work involves pesticides you must comply with the Regulations. This includes:
- businesses who produce, manufacture, process, import, store, distribute and sell pesticides for professional use, their components and adjuvants;
- businesses involved in the supply chain of amateur use (home garden) pesticides;
- users of pesticides in a professional capacity, i.e. in the course of their work. This includes operators, technicians, employers and self-employed people, in all sectors.
Who will NOT be subject to the Pesticides Official Controls Regulations?
You do not need to comply with these Regulations if:
- your business is involved in the supply chain or use of the biocides, such as rodenticides and products to control algae in ponds or bio-stimulants, such as seaweed and plant extracts, and trace elements.
- you use pesticides authorised for amateur (home garden) use as part of your gardening hobby.
What must I do to comply with the Pesticides Official Controls Regulations?
Businesses will be required to notify the Department (see below for timing) of their name, pesticide related activities and location of premises.
Businesses may be inspected under the powers given by the Pesticide Official Controls Regulations to ensure they comply with existing pesticides legislation, including The Plant Protection Products Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011 and The Plant Protection Products (Sustainable Use) Regulations 2012. Businesses will be required to cooperate with such inspections.
Notifying the Competent Authority
The Pesticides Official Controls Regulations make provision for a phased approach to the registration of operators, with the following deadlines:
- Businesses concerned with the placing on the market pesticides authorised for professional use, and/or the components of pesticides - 31 March 2022
- Businesses involved in the supply chain of amateur use (home garden) pesticides - 31 December 2022
- Professional Users - 31 December 2022
The registration portal remains open indefinitely. If you have not yet registered before the deadline and your organisation or business has been carrying out these activities for more than 3 months, you must register as soon as possible. Thereafter any business that starts carrying out any of these activities must register within 3 months of commencing such business.
Click here to register online and for additional guidance.