Importing certain agricultural goods and food from outside the UK

Check if you'll need an import licence and what import duty you'll need to pay when importing certain agricultural goods and food from outside the UK.

Goods that need an import licence

Certain agricultural products need an import licence to:

  • provide information for market management
  • impose limits on the quantities of goods imported
  • allow a reduced rate of duty in some circumstances

Find information on which products need an import licence.

UK import licences are held electronically on the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system.

An import licence will tell you:

  • what the goods are
  • the quantity of goods that you can import
  • the time within which you must import them

You’ll need to keep track of how much of the licensed quantity you import if you want to import the goods in more than one shipment. A check on current usage can be made through CHIEF using code DLLU and then insert the import licence number.

Goods that do not need an import licence

Some goods never need an import licence, and there are also occasions when other goods do not need an import licence when normally they would. For example, goods that:

Agricultural policy goods

The Rural Payments Agency operates a number of import quotas. They may issue you with a licence to reduce the duty you pay for:

  • specific agricultural products
  • food

Find out how to:

Check the Rural Payments Agency Notices to Traders for:

  • changes to rules and regulations
  • the amount of import quota that you can apply for

You can subscribe to receive emails from the Rural Payments Agency if you want to get a notification that a Notice to Traders has been published.

For the rules on importing agricultural goods you should read ET1: The trader’s guide to importing and exporting certain agricultural goods.

If you are not sure which rules apply, contact the Rural Payments Agency on their:

  • trader helpline on Telephone: 03300 416 500
  • general helpline on Telephone: 03000 200 301

Import procedures for agricultural goods

Before you can import these goods into the UK you should:

  • register as a trader with the Rural Payments Agency
  • apply for approval to submit electronic applications for import licences

For each import you must check:

  • whether the goods need an import licence
  • any specific procedures for the goods

You should also:

  • apply for an import licence — if your import licence is approved, it will be issued by the Rural Payments Agency electronically
  • submit a security with the Rural Payments Agency at the time of applying for an import licence
  • import some or all of the goods

When you complete your customs declaration to free circulation you must put the following in box 44 for CHIEF and data element 2/3 of the Customs Declaration Service. This describes additional documents accompanying your customs declaration which includes the:

  • identifier of your import licence
  • expiry date of your licence
  • country prefix
  • number shown in box 25 of your import licence
  • date of issue of your import licence

You must also:

  • record how much you import against the import licence, once the goods are declared for free circulation (attributions)
  • show the remaining balance

Your import licence security will be returned when:

  • your goods are imported
  • customs confirm that the import licence has been fully used, surrendered or expired
  • you have met any proof requirements specified in the licence

You must use up any quantity remaining on your import licence within the time limit specified, for the Rural Payments Agency to repay all your security.

How to transfer an import licence

To find out if you can transfer an import licence you must contact the Rural Payments Agency on Telephone: 03300 416 500, then put the details of the transfer on CHIEF.

Imports of food and certain agriculture products

Imports of food and certain agriculture products into the UK are often subject to Customs Duty and may need an import licence.

For some goods you can apply for a tariff quota. Tariff quotas allow you to import goods at a reduced rate of duty and are subject to presentation of an appropriate import licence.

Check the Notice to Traders to find out which licence managed quotas are available.

Further information on importing food and food products is available from the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

Imports of animals and animal products

If you meet the conditions of a general licence you can import some animals and animal products. If you do not meet the conditions, you will have to apply for a specific licence.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) issues licences for animal health imports.

You can find:

You can also contact Defra for further help on one of their helplines.

Import duty

Use the UK Integrated Online Tariff to find out how much duty you may need to pay on agricultural goods imported into the UK.

If you’re bringing goods into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and the EU, you will pay the UK duty rate if your goods are not ‘at risk’ of onward movement to the EU.

If they are ‘at risk’ of onward movement to the EU, use the Northern Ireland Online Tariff.

Small consignments of goods sent to a private individual may be eligible for a flat charge of 2.5%, calculated as a percentage of the value of the imported goods, if they fulfil all of the following criteria:

  • only made occasionally
  • for personal or family use
  • of a non-commercial nature
  • less than £630 in total value

The goods may still be liable for VAT or excise duty.

You are not eligible for the flat rate charge if you are a UK resident and you purchase the following abroad:

  • advertising material
  • business gifts
  • articles

For more information see Notice 143: a guide for international post users.

Importing goods by post

Read the step-by-step guide on how to import goods by post to find out if you’ll need to pay any VAT, Customs Duty or excise duty.

Published 3 March 2022
Last updated 20 April 2022 + show all updates
  1. The examples in the ‘Goods that do not need an import licence’ section have been updated.

  2. First published.