International trade regulations in the Agriculture, horticulture and fisheries sector

Export regulations for animals, animal products, fish, plants and plant products

If you export agricultural or animal products, livestock or endangered plants or animals, you need to be aware of certain rules and procedures. Licences are compulsory for exporting certain products. If you don't present a licence for the goods at the point of export, they cannot leave.

Products covered by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

You may need a licence to export products covered by CAP to countries outside the European Union (EU).

A system of refunds and levies helps to adjust EU prices of CAP goods to world-market levels. For example, if the EU price for a product is higher than the world price, you may be entitled to a refund. This allows you to export outside the EU at a competitive price.

CAP payments are made by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). There are different schemes for different types of products.

You may also need to show compliance with non-related regulations in order to receive CAP export refunds.

Export licences for CAP goods are issued by the RPA and enforced by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Regulations change frequently. To check if your goods need a licence, call the RPA External Trade Helpline on Tel 0191 226 5050.

Live animals and animal-based produce

If you export any kind of live animal or animal-based product, special rules apply. Most of your exports must have the correct health certificates to move through customs. Animal Export Certification.

Exports to non-EU countries are subject to export health conditions agreed between the UK and the destination country.

It's likely that dispatches to EU countries will also require health certificates

You can choose from two electronic systems to obtain health certificates. Export On Line (EOL) is used to obtain health certificates for exports to third (non-EU) countries.

You'll need to use the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) if you're dispatching to another EU member state.

In addition, you are required to take prescribed steps only to transport animals in connection with an economic activity if they are fit enough to undertake the journey, and you are able to ensure their welfare during transport. If you transport livestock over 65 kilometres, you must hold a Transporter Authorisation and have completed appropriate training.

Fish and EU fishery products

The import and export of fish and EU fishery products, whether being transported by sea, airfreight, rail or road, must meet the EU rules designed to prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. In terms of export, you must have a catch certificate for any fish or fishery products you:

  • are exporting to a third country, eg for processing, with the intention of the products re-entering the EU
  • export to a third country, as that country will require an EU catch certificate to accompany imports of fishery products
  • land from a fishing vessel in a third country from which you intend to bring the fish into the EU

You can find more information on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing information.

Customs declarations Single Administrative Document (SAD) requirements

You must enter codes in box 44 of your SAD declarations of fish and fish products at export or import if they fall within the scope of the IUU Fishing Regulations as follows:

  • if you have an IUU catch certificate, enter document code C673 in box 44 and the catch certificate number(s)
  • if the goods do not require an IUU catch certificate, enter document code Y927 in box 44

Plants, fruit and vegetables

Most plants can be freely transported within the EU, although plants which are seriously susceptible to 'quarantine' pests or diseases may require a 'plant passport'. Countries outside the EU may require plant health certification (a phytosanitary certificate). Plant and tree health regulations.

No export licences are required for dispatches of fresh fruit and vegetables within the EU. You may need a licence or a phytosanitary certificate to export to third countries. When exporting fruit and vegetables, you may have to comply with local regulations - for example, on:

  • packaging
  • phytosanitary health

Fruit and vegetables as a foodstuff are also subject to health and consumer protection regulations. Find more information on food and drink.

Other regulations

Exports of endangered plants or animals are controlled and licences are required. CITES is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement between governments that came into force in 1975. Read CITES guidance.

For information on food and hygiene regulations when exporting to the United States, seeĀ food and drink.