International trade regulations in the Agriculture, horticulture and fisheries sector

Import regulations in the agriculture, horticulture and fisheries sector

As the European Union (EU) is a Customs Union, you can buy most goods from other member countries without restrictions - although VAT and excise duty can still apply. Read more about trading in the European Union.

If you import from outside the EU, you may have to comply with import licensing requirements and with common customs tariffs that apply across the EU. Read more about importing your goods from outside the European Union.

Import licences

Under EU regulations on the Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals (REACH), if you manufacture, import or use over one tonne of a chemical substance per year you must register with the European Chemicals Agency. Read about REACH legislation.

Import restrictions can be product-specific or trade-specific. Many products are subject to product-specific standards and need to be supported by applicable certificates, product-specific licences and documentation.

Restrictions or limitations on the quantity of some imports mean that you may have to pay anti-dumping duties on your goods.

You can check the Tariff to see if your goods will be subject to these and other licences. The Tariff is a customs document which shows commodity codes, licences, duties, taxes and other measures to classify all goods for import and export. Read an introduction to the Tariff.

Access the UK Trade Tariff.

Plants that are seriously susceptible to damage from pests or disease may require a 'plant passport' to move within the EU. Plants and some plant products imported from outside the EU will require a phytosanitary certificate.

Third country hops imported into the EU require an Attestation of Equivalence at import. This certificate is issued by the appropriate agency in the country of origin and must be presented with other entry documents to HM Revenue and Customs for customs clearance. Imports of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) goods from outside the EU may require a CAP import licence, or be covered by a tariff rate quota, depending on their origin. Tariff rate quotas allow your goods to qualify for preferential duty rates. Imports outside the quota are charged higher rates of duty.

Goods imported to the UK must comply with domestic business standards, including those relating to:

  • animal and plant health protection
  • levies on cereals and oilseeds
  • organic produce
  • food labelling
  • pesticide residues
  • plant health
  • use of fertilisers
  • beef labelling
  • labelling of and additives to animal feed

Import packaging regulations

Consignments in wood packaging may also need a phytosanitary certificate. Regulated by the NI Forest Service, this proves the wood has been properly treated to prevent pest infestation and disease to international standard ISPM15. Check if your packaging meets the regulations by calling the NI Forest Service Customer Services Enquiry Line on Tel 028 6634 3165.

There are also health requirements affecting materials and articles that come into contact with food. This is to prevent food becoming contaminated by substances within the packaging or other items with which it comes into contact.

Food and drink

If you import animals, fish, plants or vegetables, you must comply with certain rules. Read more about import regulations for animals, animal products, fish, feed, plants and organic produce.