Trading in fruit, vegetables and plant products

Understanding EC marketing standards for fruit, vegetables and plant products


Across the European Union (EU), the import, sale and marketing of most fruit and vegetables is regulated by European Commission (EC) marketing standards designed to ensure that produce is sound, clean, correctly labelled, of marketable quality and - for some specific commodities - achieves a quality class. The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) manages these standards in Northern Ireland.

Most products are covered by a General Marketing Standard (General MS) and some are covered by Specific Marketing Standards (Specific MS).

Check which fruits and vegetables are subject to EC marketing standards.

Ten Specific MS cover apples, pears, peaches and nectarines, kiwi fruit, grapes, sweet peppers, lettuce (including batavia and endive), citrus fruit (oranges, lemons, mandarins, satsumas, clementines and hybrids) strawberries and tomatoes.

The General MS covers most other commodities with some exceptions.

Working with the standards

If your goods are subject to EC marketing standards and you want to import them into or export them from the UK or any other EU member state, the produce must be quality graded according to either a Specific MS or the General MS. Your produce must be free from rot and disease, clean, pest-free and undamaged by pests, and in an adequate state of maturity.

You must also clearly label your packaging with the information required under the Specific MS or General MS applicable to your goods. This could include country of origin, details of the packer, variety/type, size, weight, and quality class. Find out more about quality and labelling requirements.

To import produce with Specific MS, you will need to obtain a certificate of conformity through the Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates (PEACH) system in order to import the goods.

You will need a Certificate of Conformity for these 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, curly and broad-leaved endives, sweet peppers and tomatoes

You do not generally need a certificate of conformity to import produce subject to General MS, however spot check inspections for compliance will be made at points of entry.

Tax and duty considerations

You should also check the Tariff when importing and exporting fruit, vegetables and plants that are covered by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). This trade scheme ensures EU produce is available and fairly priced by raising or dropping duties where required.

There are several ways to work out the value of your imports for the purposes of paying tax and duty on consignments. If you have not already set a price with your seller, you may be able to use simplified procedure values (SPVs), prices set regularly by the EU. Another type of valuation, standard import values (SIVs), sets a daily standard price per 100 kilograms net of produce. Read more about other methods of calculating import value.

Your goods may also be subject to other duties including seasonal duties that can change at short notice. Read more about tariffs and duties in the food and drink sector. You can also contact the HMRC VAT Helpline on Tel 0300 200 3700.