Guide

Trading in fruit, vegetables and plant products

Understanding certification and inspection of fruit, vegetables and plant products

The certification and authorisation requirements for importing and exporting fresh fruit and vegetables depend on the type of products you're trading, their origin and destination. These are managed by the Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate, Rural Payments Agency (RPA). Read more aboutĀ the specific requirements for fruit and vegetables covered by European Commission (EC) marketing standards.

To import fruit and vegetables subject to the Specific EC Marketing Standard (Specific MS) or to export them (outside the European Union), you must obtain a Certificate of Conformity. These certificates show that a consignment meets the quality and labelling standards set by the Specific MS. You do not generally need a Certificate of Conformity to import produce subject to the General EC Marketing Standards. Products coming under the General Marketing Standard will be subject to a low level random spot check by the RPA to assess if such products meet the quality and labelling requirements. In these instances you will be notified that your product has been randomly selected and you will be required to enter details of the produce on the RPA Inspectorate online Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates (PEACH) system. HMRC clearance will be withheld until a PEACH entry has been made, the produce inspected and a release (certificate of conformity) issued by the RPA.

You will always need a Certificate of Conformity for the following products:

  • fruits - apples, citrus fruit (oranges, mandarins, satsumas, clementines and hybrids and lemons), kiwi fruit, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, and table grapes
  • vegetables and salads - lettuces (including batavia and curly and broad-leaved endives), sweet peppers and tomatoes

Once a Certificate of Conformity has been issued, goods can move through customs into free circulation. If you don't obtain a Certificate of Conformity your goods won't be released. The certificates are available using PEACH.

Certain countries including South Africa, Morocco, India, Israel, Kenya, Senegal, Turkey and Switzerland have been certified by the EU as having an Approved Inspection Service (AIS). This means they can produce their own Conformity Certificates that will be accepted as proof of conformity with the marketing standards. These certificates are accepted by the RPA and HM Revenue & Customs instead of UK-produced certificates.

The RPA carries out random audits of lots from AIS countries to ensure compliance and to check that a Certificate of Conformity is present and valid at the time of import. Traders must therefore keep the certificates and note the PEACH application number. See our guide on archiving your trade documents for further information.

Traders can obtain phytosanitary release and conformity certificates online in a one-step process in conjunction with their import declarations using the Automatic Licence Verification System (ALVS).

If you're in England or Wales, you must pre-notify the RPA of any pending consignment through PEACH.

Different rules apply in Scotland and Northern Ireland, although Scottish and Northern Irish businesses can use PEACH if their goods arrive at English or Welsh ports.

Importers from Northern Ireland should contact the DAERA Helpline on Tel 0300 200 7850.

Inspection

When you apply for a certificate, a conformity check will take place either with a physical inspection or a conformity check based on a risk analysis of your application using the Import Risk Assessment System (IRAS). You can see the risk assessment criteria.

Once an application has been received it will be risk assessed and a certificate issued ('green balled' on PEACH) or selected for inspection ('red balled' on PEACH) when you will be contacted by the Inspectorate to arrange an inspection at the point of entry (port, airport or CFSP premises).

If your consignment fails inspection the RPA Inspectorate will ask you to tell them how you intend to bring your goods into conformity. You will be required to enter this information into the PEACH system.

Once the goods have been brought into conformity, they will be re-inspected by the RPA Inspectorate and a Certificate of Conformity issued by the inspector. To find out more about risk analysis and inspections see the page in this guide on approval and testing for horticultural goods.

When importing, Certificates of Conformity or their equivalents issued in specific countries (AIS) are recognised by customs authorities across the EU and will allow your goods to clear.

You may also need a quarantine release certificate if your goods are plant health controlled.

Check the rules that apply to each type of product.