Guidance

Importing and exporting plants and plant products from 1 January 2021

How to trade in plants and plant products, including trees, inside and outside the EU from 1 January 2021.

New rules for January 2021

The UK has left the EU, and the transition period after Brexit comes to an end this year.

This page tells you what you'll need to do from 1 January 2021. It will be updated if anything changes.

You can also read about the transition period.

‘Plant’ means a living plant (including a fungus or tree) or a living part of a plant (including a living part of a fungus or shrub), at any stage of growth.

‘Plant product’ means products of plant origin, unprocessed or having undergone simple preparation, in so far as these are not plants, including wood and bark.

Importing plants and plant products into England, Scotland and Wales from the EU

The UK has left the EU. There will be new processes that importers must follow in 2021. These processes will start in 3 stages.

Importing plants and plant products from the EU from 1 January 2021

High-priority plants and plant products from the EU must have:

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

You will have to pay for these services.

High-priority plants and plant products from the EU that will need a PC from 1 January 2021 include:

  • all plants for planting
  • ware potatoes
  • some seed and timber
  • used agricultural or forestry machinery

This guide will publish a full list of plants and products that need a PC.

You must pre-notify for imports of solid fuel wood that aren’t regulated. You do not need a PC for these imports.

Importing plants and plant products from 1 April 2021

You must use the Import of products, animals, food and feed system (IPAFFS) to notify the Animal Plant Health Agency (APHA) or the Forestry Commission that you’re importing regulated plants and plant products.

All regulated plants and plant products imported to England, Scotland or Wales from the EU must have phytosanitary certificates (PCs).

APHA will inspect the PCs in England and Wales. The Scottish Government will inspect PCs in Scotland.

Regulated plants and plant products include:

  • all plants for planting
  • root and tubercle vegetables
  • some common fruits other than fruit preserves by deep freezing
  • some cut flowers
  • some seeds and grains
  • leafy vegetables other than vegetables preserved by deep freezing
  • potatoes from some countries
  • machinery or vehicles which have been operated for agricultural or forestry purposes

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will publish a full list of regulated plants and plant products in this guide this year.

Importing plants and plant products from 1 July 2021

Regulated plants and plant products will have extra documentary checks and physical inspections.

You must use IPAFFS to notify APHA or the Forestry Commission that you’re importing regulated plants and plant products.

Exempt plants and plant products for import

These plants and plant products are already exempt from import controls in England, Scotland and Wales:

  • pineapple
  • coconut
  • durian
  • bananas
  • dates

They will continue to be exempt from import controls after 31 December 2020.

Steps to take now to prepare for 1 January 2021

To prepare for 1 January 2021 you need to:

  • familiarise yourself with phytosanitary import certificate requirements but do not yet register for IPAFFS
  • consider whether you will establish a UK registered address, or appoint a UK- based proxy to act on your behalf, to imports plants and products to England, Scotland or Wales
  • register with the Forestry Commission as a professional operator if you’re importing wood or wood products to England and Wales - importers in Scotland and Northern Ireland should refer to local guidance

Exporting plants and plant products from England, Scotland or Wales to the EU

From 1 January 2021, all regulated plants and plant products exported from England, Scotland or Wales to the EU will be subject to EU import controls in line with goods exported from the rest of the world.

Regulated plants and plant products include:

  • all plants for planting
  • root and tubercle vegetables;
  • most fruits
  • cut flowers
  • some seeds
  • leafy vegetables
  • machinery or vehicles which have been operated for agricultural or forestry purposes

Find out about exporting wood, wood products, bark and wood packaging material.

Understand how to apply for plant variety rights and market plant reproductive material, seeds and other propagating material from 1 January 2021.

The process for sending regulated plants and plant products to the EU will be the same as the current process for sending them to third countries. When you export regulated plants and plant products to third countries, you need to:

  • check whether a PC is required by contacting the plant health authority or a plant health inspector in the destination country
  • apply for a PC from the relevant UK plant health authority before export
  • check if your plants require laboratory testing of samples to ensure they are free from pests and diseases or inspections during the growing season - contact your local plant health inspector to find out if your plants need these tests before exporting

The export health certificate online (EHCO) system will be live in 2021. You must submit your applications on EHCO.

Regulated plant and plant products exports to the EU from the UK may be subject to checks at the EU border.

Exempt plants and plant products for export

These plants and plant products are already exempt from controls to export to EU member states:

  • pineapple
  • coconut
  • durian
  • bananas
  • dates

They will continue to be exempt from export controls after 31 December 2020.

Plant products such as fruit and vegetables that have been processed and packaged to the point that they no longer pose a biosecurity risk, will also be exempt from controls in EU member states.

Composite products like nut and seed butters containing processed fruit or vegetables do not fall within plant health controls or require a phytosanitary certificate.

Steps to take now to prepare for 1 January 2021

To prepare for 1 January 2021 you need to:

Plant Passports and Pest Free Areas

Some plants and plant products must meet specific requirements to enter ‘protected zones’ within EU countries.

EU Protected Zones (PZs) allow EU member states to place controls on imports and movements between member states. This prevents the introduction or spread of plant pests and diseases which are present elsewhere in the EU but absent from the Protected Zone.

Changes to Protected Zones from 1 January 2021

The UK cannot designate all or parts of the UK as an EU Protected Zone from 1 January 2021.

The UK will replace the biosecurity protections provided by EU Protected Zones by creating 2 new designations.

Quarantine pest designation

Quarantine pests are plant pests and diseases which are not established and which would be damaging if introduced, where they are absent from the whole of the UK.

Quarantine pests are prohibited from entering the UK and are subject to statutory control if found on plants or plants products. The requirements to prevent the entry of these pests will remain the same from 1 January 2021.

Pest Free Areas (PFAs) designations

This will designate PFAs in line with international standards for those pests and diseases which are absent from part of the UK, but not the whole of the UK. PFAs are declared in line with recognised international standards and requirements. They can be applied to movements of plants and plant products into PFAs.

Both EU PZs and PFAs allow countries to control movements of plants and plant products which may carry plant pests and diseases, where the whole country or an area within the country are free from those pests or diseases. Moving from PZs to quarantine pests and PFAs will not change the requirements for goods moving within the UK.

There will be no new import or movement restrictions from the replacement of certain PZs with requirements for quarantine pests. These requirements are already in place now under the PZ system. The requirements for importing into and moving within PFAs will be the same as they currently are for the equivalent PZs.

If you are moving plants and plant products into or within UK PZs currently, you need to use an EU plant passport. You will need to use a UK plant passport if you’re moving the relevant plants and plant products into or within UK PFAs from 1 January 2021.

How to move goods into or within a UK Pest Free Area from 1 January 2021

Plants and plant products currently covered by EU plant passports for movements within the UK will need to be moved with a UK plant passport. When moving controlled plants in the UK, you’ll need to:

  • register with the relevant UK plant health authority
  • be authorised to issue plant passports

If you are an existing user of EU plant passports, you do not need to reissue a UK passport but you will need to change the title of your passport from ‘EU’ to ‘GB’.

If you’re providing a UK plant passport to move restricted plants into a UK PFA, you must include ‘PFA’ on the passport, rather than ‘PZ’ followed by the code for that PFA. Codes for PFAs will be the same as the codes for the PZs that they are replacing. For example, the code for ‘Thaumetopoea processionea’ is ‘THAUPR’.

Find details on Pest Free Areas and what plants must have passports (PDF, 271KB, 3 pages) to understand what to do from 1 January 2021.

Read Issuing plant passports to trade plants in the EU to understand how to apply for a UK plant passport.

Movement of wood packaging material

Wood packaging material (WPM) moving between the UK and the rest of the EU can currently move freely without checks or controls.

WPM includes:

  • pallets
  • crates
  • boxes
  • cable drums
  • spools
  • dunnage

From 1 January 2021 all WPM moving between the UK and the EU must meet ISPM15 international standards by undergoing heat treatment and marking. All WPM may be subject to official checks either upon or after entry to the EU.

Checks on WPM will continue to be carried out in the UK on a risk-targeted basis only. The plant health risk from WPM imported from the EU is not expected to change from 1 January 2021.

Steps to take now to prepare

Contact your supplier or TIMCON if you need more advice about moving WPM from 1 January 2021.

Trade agreements

Any new agreements will replicate existing EU agreements as far as possible. Where replacement trade agreements are not agreed, trade will take place on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms with that country. Details of each agreement will be shared with parliament and the public when they have been agreed.

Published 10 June 2020
Last updated 10 September 2020 + show all updates
  1. Removed publication 'the new import requirements for high priority plants and products from 1 January 2021' for policy review and further updating.

  2. Updated publication 'new import requirements for high priority plants and products from 1 January 2021'

  3. Removed document 'new import requirements for high priority plants and products from 1 January 2021' . Updated version will be approved and published today.

  4. Added document explaining the new requirements to Import high-priority plants and products from 1 January 2021

  5. New instructions on the import and export processes in 2021 - set out in 3 stages, 1 January, 1 April and 1 July 2021.

  6. First published.