Import timber, wood products or bark

Find out how to import timber and wood material, including the documents, identity checks and plant health inspections required.

Applies to England, Scotland and Wales

You, your agent or broker must make sure any imported regulated (controlled) timber, wood products and bark (wood material) meets import requirements in England, Scotland and Wales (Great Britain) before it’s exported.

If you’re importing into Great Britain (GB) and it’s destined for Northern Ireland, you must meet both GB’s and Northern Ireland’s import requirements.

Check with the plant health authority in Northern Ireland about its import rules.

Register as a professional operator to trade regulated wood material

You, your agent or broker must first apply to the Forestry Commission to become a professional operator and notify them before the material arrives in England, Scotland or Wales. All regulated wood material has a plant health inspection on arrival.

Meet phytosanitary requirements

Make sure your consignment meets the plant health (phytosanitary) requirements for timber, wood and wood products (items 109 - 142) before it’s exported to avoid unnecessary and costly delays at the border.

A phytosanitary certificate is issued in the country of export and verifies:

  • the tree species of the timber, wood products and bark
  • that it meets the phytosanitary import requirements of the importing country
  • the wood material type and the country of origin

It must show that the regulated material:

  • has been officially inspected in the country of origin (or country of dispatch)
  • complies with statutory phytosanitary requirements for entry into GB
  • is free from quarantine pests and disease
  • is substantially free from other harmful organisms

Phytosanitary certificates for re-export

These show that a consignment issued with a phytosanitary certificate in one country has been stored, repacked or split in another country and then exported to GB.

Complete a notice of landing form (inspection request)

You must request an inspection by completing a notice of landing form for all regulated material.

The notice you need to give depends on how your consignment is arriving.

You need to give notice of:

  • at least four working hours before the goods land in the UK, for air and ‘roll-on-roll-off’ freight
  • at least one working day before the goods arrive in the UK for all other freight

If you expect difficulties meeting the requirements, you should contact the Forestry Commission: email

Present phytosanitary and customs documents

You, your agent or broker must present original phytosanitary certificates to an inspector within 3 days of any wood material entering GB.

If the wood material is being imported by post, you must attach its certificates to the outside of the package.

You must make sure each consignment is accompanied by either:

  • a single phytosanitary certificate
  • another phytosanitary certificate for re-export (where appropriate)

Industry and mill certificates

Equivalence arrangements that were in place for certain countries of origin when the UK was in the EU no longer apply.

All regulated material must now be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate until these equivalence arrangements are renewed.

Customs documents

You must make sure the Customs document for each consignment includes:

  • a statement that it contains produce of phytosanitary relevance
  • the reference number of the phytosanitary certificate, phytosanitary certificate for re-export or industry certificate
  • the registration number of the importer or agent

Plant health inspections

The Forestry Commission or the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland carry out plant health inspections.

These inspections are separate from any checks carried out by other government inspectorates, such as Border Force or HMRC.

Inspectors usually operate Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (although local arrangements may be in place).

Once inspectors are notified a consignment is ready for examination, they will inspect it that day or the next working day.

Importing from the EU or Switzerland from 1 January 2021

If your regulated wood material originates from the EU or Switzerland, then there are new rules that apply from 1 Jan 2021.

High-priority timber, wood products and bark from the EU must have:

  • a phytosanitary (health) certificate (PC)
  • a pre-notification submitted by the importer in England, Scotland or Wales
  • documentary and identity checks
  • a physical inspection

Find out about types of timber, wood products and bark on the high priority list.

Checks on imports from a third country

If your import is from a third country outside the EU, a plant health inspection will be carried out on arrival at a border control post.

You should aim to provide as much notice as possible so goods can be inspected promptly and cleared quickly with Customs.

Customs will not clear goods until a plant health inspection has been completed.

Border control posts

Plant health checks are carried out at approved points of entry (POE). An approved point of entry has the facilities to treat or destroy consignments of wood, if necessary.

You should be aware that:

  • it can take time for port operators to conduct fumigant gas checks on containerised material
  • port operators will charge for commercial consignment handling services
  • inspectors will only perform inspections when it’s safe to do so

Approved inland inspection premises

Only approved professional operators can get Forestry Commission and HMRC clearance at inland inspection premises instead of at a point of entry.

External temporary storage facilities (ETSFs) must meet the safety and biosecurity standards set by the Forestry Commission and HMRC.

If the premises do not have fumigant gas-checking facilities or trained containerised material operators, you may be responsible for devanning.

Devanning is where you have to unseal the landed containers and take the contents out for physical inspection. This will be at your own risk and cost.

Non-EU imports checked in the EU

If your import is from a non-EU (third) country that’s been checked in the EU, it will be allowed to move onward to GB as an EU import with the original phytosanitary certificate.

It must meet UK import requirements for forestry pests present in the EU but not in parts of the UK.

Non-EU imports arriving via the EU

If plant health checks have not been carried out in the EU – for example, if the consignment has been placed into a customs transit procedure – it will be treated as a direct import from the country of origin.

In this case, plant health checks will need to be carried out on entry to GB. This will apply to both containerised and bulk consignments.

Become a ‘place of destination’

If you want a physical plant health inspection for EU-regulated high-priority plants or plant products to take place at your commercial premises, you can become a ‘place of destination’ from 1 January until 30 June 2021. Read about how operators can register and what requirements you will need to meet.

Checks on your consignment

When your consignment arrives in GB, inspectors will:

  1. Check the documentation to make sure it has been filled out in full and that it complies with regulations.

  2. Where applicable, carry out identity checks to make sure the description on all the documentation matches the actual wood material in the consignment. For example, if the wood has been kiln dried, it must be clearly marked with ‘KD’ or another internationally recognised mark.

  3. Where applicable, examine all or a sample of the consignment, including the packaging, to make sure it complies with plant health regulations.

Pay inspection fees

Fees for the inspection of high priority goods imported to GB from the EU will be introduced from 1 June 2021 at the levels outlined below.

The importer is responsible for paying the inspection fees. If you’re requesting an inspection or presenting the phytosanitary certificates on behalf of the importer, you’re responsible for paying fees on their behalf.

Inspection fees include separate charges for document, identity and plant health checks.

Phytosanitary certificates must be accurate and clearly display the volume of wood material. Sometimes they include types of wood that do not need to be inspected (non-regulated wood material).

If it’s not possible to separate out the volume of regulated wood from the non-regulated wood, the whole consignment will need to be inspected.

If so, you’ll be charged for the whole consignment, not just the regulated element of it. This could significantly increase the cost.

Type of check Volume Fee
Documentary checks Per consignment £7.20  
Identity checks For each load of up to 30m3, forming part of the consignment contained in one truck, railway wagon, or comparable container - per consignment £7.20  
Identity checks for bulk loads Less than 100m3 £7.20  
Identity checks for bulk loads 100m3 or more £14.40  
Plant health checks Per consignment of wood (other than in the form of shavings, chips or sawdust) - up to 100m3 £31.20  
Plant health checks Per consignment of wood (other than in the form of shavings, chips or sawdust) - over 100m3, each additional m3 or part thereof £0.25  
Plant health checks - per consignment of isolated bark and wood in the form of shavings, chips or sawdust Up to 25,000kg £31.20  
Plant health checks - per consignment of isolated bark and wood in the form of shavings, chips or sawdust Above 25,000kg - each additional 1,000kg or part thereof £0.49 *

*Maximum inspection fee of £98 only applies to plant health checks of sawdust, woodshavings, woodchips and isolated bark

Certificate of clearance (form PHF28)

You’ll be issued with a quarantine release certificate (certificate of clearance) if your material passes inspections. If your material is from the EU, you do not need to take any further action.

If you’re importing wood from a non-EU (third) country, you must present the certificate to HMRC along with your Customs declaration.

This shows that a satisfactory physical examination has been carried out. You must also declare that the consignment contains ‘produce of phytosanitary relevance’.

What to do if you fail inspection

If you don’t meet the import requirements, you must take action to fix the problem (remedial action).

Remedial action could involve having the wood material:

  • destroyed
  • re-exported
  • treated to fix the problem

An inspector may also take samples from the wood material and send it to Forest Research for diagnostic advice.

You’ll be served a statutory notice that will prevent you from removing the consignment until remedial action is taken and tests are complete.

If action is not taken by the due date, the Forestry Commission may carry out the work itself or contract the work out. You’ll be charged for this.

If treatment is needed, a certificate of clearance will not be issued until:

  • it’s been treated to the required specification
  • it poses no further risk to plant health

Charges for remedial work

As consignments can vary in size, volume and the type of remedial action required, the charge is time-based at:

  • £37 for the first hour, including travel and office time
  • £9.25 for each additional period (from 1 to 15 minutes) after the first hour of work (for example, 25 minutes would be charged as 2 x 15-minute periods)

The Forestry Commission will aim to keep costs to a minimum by staying onsite only long enough to ensure that treatment is carried out properly.

They will need to inspect the treated material to make sure treatment has been effective. Where possible, the Forestry Commission plan these visits to coincide with the time of treatment.

You must keep the Forestry Commission informed of any changes to agreed arrangements to avoid unnecessary charges.

When and how to pay

You pay the fee after the remedial work has been carried out. You’ll be sent an invoice that you can pay through your credit account, if you have one. You can also pay via BACS or a cheque.

Once payment has been received, you’ll be issued with a certificate of clearance.

Published 26 September 2018
Last updated 1 January 2021 + show all updates
  1. EU exit changes

  2. Changed "one of the following" to "all of the following" in the bullet point section under Import Documents.

  3. New regulatory changes shown in Documentary, identity and plant health checks, and changed process 'Register as a forestry trader' to 'Register as a professional operator'.

  4. First published.