How to import food and agriculture products covered by CAP from outside the EU: import licences, duty, import quotas and relief from CAP charges.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) exists to increase agricultural productivity within the EU, provide a fair standard of living for the farming community, stabilise markets and guarantee security of supplies. It also assures reasonable prices for consumers by controlling the market in agricultural and related products within the EU.
CAP places specific import controls and duties on food, agricultural and horticultural products and their derivatives. This guide explains how to import products covered by CAP from outside the EU, tells you what levies, refunds, suspensions and quotas are applied and explains how to take advantage of import schemes that can help you reduce the duties payable on your goods.
You must be registered with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), which manages the CAP schemes if you want to import or export licensable goods or claim refunds.
Common Agricultural Policy import licences
Imports of food and agriculture products covered by CAP (CAP goods) from outside the EU are often subject to customs duty and may require a licence that will need to be presented. For some goods, a tariff quota can be applied for. Tariff quotas allow imports to be made at a reduced rate of duty and are subject to presentation of an appropriate import licence.
What are CAP goods?
CAP covers food, agricultural and horticultural products and their derivatives. You can find the full list of goods covered by CAP in Notice 780.
The RPA operates a number of CAP trade schemes for specific products some of which may reduce the duty you pay. You can find guidance to the RPA’s CAP schemes in leaflet ET1.
Goods requiring an import licence
Certain CAP goods require an import licence to:
- provide information for management of the EU agricultural market sectors
- impose limits on the quantities of goods imported
- allow a reduced rate of duty in some circumstances
Most licences are held electronically on the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system, and for these you do not need to present a paper licence at the point of import unless the goods enter the EU in a country other than the UK.
A licence will stipulate what the goods are, the quantity of those goods that you are permitted to import, and the time within which you must import them. You’ll need to keep track of how much of the licensed quantity you have imported 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 inserting the licence number.
Goods not requiring an import licence
For some commodities a licence is never needed. There are also occasions when other commodities don’t require a licence when normally they would. Examples are as follows:
- goods already in free circulation in the EU
- goods entering the customs warehousing regime - see the guide on customs warehousing
- goods that aren’t entered into free circulation, eg, goods eligible for Inward Processing - see the guide on Inward Processing
- for most imports where the security amounts to less than €5
- goods being returned to the EU, read Notice 236 returned goods relief.
When importing CAP goods you may need to deposit a security sum with HMRC, or lodge a security with the RPA at the time of applying for a licence.
Applying for a CAP import licence
Before you can apply for a CAP import licence, you must register as a customer (trader) with the RPA. Find out about customer registration.
**You can apply for an import licence by email. However, before you can do this, you need to be approved and to accept the terms and conditions of use set out by the RPA. You can find guidance to the RPA’s CAP schemes in leaflet ET1 on the RPA website. You will find terms and conditions for the submission of licences by email in section S page 8 of this document. You’ll need to provide the following information:
- your full name and address, including member state trader registration number
- the exporting country
- the country of origin
- the standard trade denomination for the product being imported - together with the combined nomenclature code and description
- the quantity of the product you wish to import
- any special particulars and notes
Once registered and approved you’ll need to submit your licence requests by email. You can find the import licence application.
To prevent low-priced imports competing against high-priced EU goods, a range of different types of CAP charges are applied to products imported from outside the EU. These charges are known as duty and are due at the time of import.
There are several types of duty payable on imported CAP goods:
- specific customs duty is applied to most agricultural goods from outside the EU and is based on weight
- ad valorem customs duty is a percentage of the value of a consignment
- countervailing charge may apply to certain products at certain times of year - or in certain market conditions
- the safeguard charge applies when the value of a consignment is less than a trigger price - and may be imposed at short notice
Processed goods may give you the option of paying different rates of specific and ad valorem customs duties, in which case you can opt for the formula that results in the lower rate of duty.
Preferential rates may apply to goods originating in certain countries or groups of countries. For more information about how you can use preferences, read the guide on using trade preferences.
Small consignments of CAP goods sent to a private individual may be eligible for a flat charge of 3.5% ad valorem duty if such imports fulfil all of the following criteria:
- only occasional
- for personal or family use
- of a non-commercial nature
- of less than £282 in total value
The goods may still be liable for VAT and/or excise duty.
Advertising material, business gifts and articles purchased abroad by a UK resident aren’t eligible for the flat rate charge.
Relief from CAP charges
Certain goods may get relief from CAP charges:
- Goods eligible for a reduced or nil rate of duty under Tariff quota arrangements. Read Notice 375 tariff quotas .
- Goods eligible for a favourable rate of charge by reason of their end-use, see the guide on end-use relief.
- Goods exported from the EU and then imported. Read Notice 236 returned goods relief.
- Temporarily imported goods. Read Notice 200 temporary admission .
Import procedures for CAP goods
Before you can import CAP goods into the UK:
- you should register as a trader with the RPA
you can apply for approval to submit electronic applications for CAP import licences For each import, you must:
- check whether the goods require a CAP licence
- check any specific procedures for the goods
- apply for an import licence
- deposit the required security with HMRC or the RPA
- import some or all of the goods
- declare the import, either electronically via the CHIEF system, or on form C88, the Single Administrative Document (SAD)
- record how much was imported against the licence once goods are declared for free circulation (attributions), and show the remaining balance
- submit the licence to customs if you have a paper licence
- make further imports to use up any quantity remaining on your licence within the time limit specified
If your import licence is approved, it will be issued, usually electronically, within five working days of receipt of your application. For paper licences, Customs will endorse the attributions on your licence and return the documents as soon as all import procedures have been completed.
When you complete the SAD you must put the following in box 44, which describes additional documents accompanying your customs declaration:
- the identifier of your CAP import licence
- the expiry date of your licence
- the country prefix
- the number shown in box 25 of your licence
- the date of issue of your licence
You don’t need a security deposit when you apply for your licence if the amount comes to less than €100, and in some circumstances, less than €500. Your security will be returned when:
- your goods have been imported
- customs have confirmed that the licence has been fully used, surrendered, or expired
- you have met any proof requirements specified in the licence
Transferring a licence
If you want to transfer a licence you must contact the RPA who will advise if this is permissible and if necessary transmit the details of the transfer to CHIEF.
Imports of CAP goods by post
Procedures for CAP goods imported by post are covered in volume 3 part 3 of the Tariff. For consignments exceeding £2,000 in value you must complete a formal declaration on SAD, which will be sent to you from the Postal Depot.
CAP rules on livestock, meat and animal products
Imports of animals and products of animal origin are controlled by licensing. While you can import those animals and products of animal origin that meet the conditions of a general licence, you will have to apply for a specific licence in other cases.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) issues licences for animal health imports. You can find an application form for an animal health import licence.
You should read the RPA leaflets offered on this page in conjunction with RPA leaflet ET1 - The Traders Guide to Importing and Exporting CAP Goods in leaflet ET1 on the RPA website. Note that the rules in the leaflets about specific commodities have precedence over the general rules outlined in leaflet ET1. If you are not sure which rules apply, please contact the RPA.
Find the latest notifications on scheme changes in the Notices to traders.
Beef and veal
You do not need an import licence to import beef or veal if paying full duty. There are a number of import duty reduction schemes - known as quotas - for the imports of chilled and frozen beef and veal, and for defined types of products from specific countries. You’ll need an import licence relevant to the quota you wish to import under to take advantage of these. Find general information on the Beef and Veal scheme.
You may have to provide additional documentation, such as a Certificate of Authenticity, or a EUR1 Movement Certificate. You can find information about Authenticity and EUR1 Movement certificates on the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry website. Beef may only be imported from certain countries and approved producers.
The Pigmeat, Eggs and Poultry Section (PEP) of the RPA issues import licences quarterly under several preferential import quota schemes for particular products. Find information on importing pig meat.
There are a number of quotas for pig meat, and you’ll need an import licence relevant to the quota you wish to import under to take advantage of these. The quotas are available for imports from certain countries, and will typically specify a minimum and/or maximum quantity of pig meat that you may import. Find out more about the pig meat special import schemes in leaflet ET8.
You don’t need a licence to import poultry meat, unless you wish to take advantage of the import duty reduction schemes, known as quotas, for poultry meat. The quotas are available for imports from certain countries, and will typically specify minimum and maximum import quantities, security and documentary requirements. You can find out more about the poultry meat special import schemes in leaflet ET7.
CAP rules on cereals, rice, sugar and oils
You should read the RPA leaflets offered on this page in conjunction with RPA leaflet ET1 - The Traders Guide to Importing and Exporting CAP Goods in leaflet ET1. Note that the rules in the leaflets about specific commodities have precedence over the general rules outlined in leaflet ET1. If you are not sure which rules apply, please contact the RPA.
You need an import licence to import cereals above certain weight quantities. In order to take advantage of import quotas that reduce customs duty, you’ll typically also have to:
- lodge additional securities
- provide proof of country of origin of the goods
- only import from the specific countries covered by the scheme
You’ll need an import licence to import more than one tonne of rice. For smaller quantities, you do not need an import licence unless you are importing under a quota, or paying zero duty when importing certain varieties of husked basmati rice from India or Pakistan. In addition, you may have to:
- lodge additional securities
- provide proof of origin of the goods
- provide proof of previous trade within the rice sector
- only import from the countries specified on the licence
Import licences for sugar are only needed if you are importing under preferential arrangements. Imports from the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries or India, can be made under quotas if the correct kind of licence is held. Your licence will require you to import and refine the sugar before the end of the marketing year.
For cane sugar (preferential sugar) imports, you’ll need to present a Certificate of Origin, or EUR1 Movement Certificate. You can find out about Certificates of Origin in the guide to rules of origin.
Oils and fats
You’ll need an import licence when importing more than 100 kilograms of olives, olive oil residues or oil cakes. For smaller quantities a licence is required if you want to take advantage of import quotas.
This scheme applies to imports of unrefined olive oil from Tunisia. You can find information on the oils and fats schemes in leaflet ET4.
CAP rules on milk and eggs
You should read the RPA leaflets below in conjunction with RPA leaflet ET1 - The Traders Guide to Importing and Exporting CAP Goods in leaflet ET1. Note that the rules in the leaflets about specific commodities have precedence over the general rules outlined in leaflet ET1. If you are not sure which rules apply, please contact the RPA.
Milk and milk products
You do not need an import licence for imports of milk products if full duty is being paid. There are special schemes, known as quotas, that can reduce the rate of duty you pay for certain products from certain countries for which a licence is required.
You may need to comply with minimum and maximum quantities and lodge security with RPA or HMRC. You can find details of the milk and milk products import schemes in leaflet ET10.
You don’t need an import licence to import eggs, but you may need a licence from Defra. You can find further information in the guide to products of animal origin.
If you do need a licence you can obtain one from Defra.
In order to take advantage of the special import scheme for egg imports you’ll need to apply for an import licence. The schemes are quota-based and usually work on a quarterly basis. Application periods are the first seven days of the last month of the previous quarter and you’ll need to:
- provide proof of previous trade in the egg sector
- lodge security
- comply with minimum and maximum quantities
CAP rules on fresh fruit, vegetables and processed produce
Special import controls relating to fresh fruit and vegetables, and processed produce. You should read the RPA leaflets below in conjunction with RPA leaflet ET1 - The Traders Guide to Importing and Exporting CAP Goods in leaflet ET1. Note that the rules in the leaflets about specific commodities have precedence over the general rules outlined in leaflet ET1. If you are not sure which rules apply, please contact the RPA.
You’ll only need an import licence if you want to import fresh bananas at the full rate of duty. You can find details of the bananas system in leaflet ET11.
If you want to import garlic from third countries, you must have either an ‘A’ import licence to import under quota arrangements or a ‘B’ licence to import under non-quota arrangements.
Imports under quota arrangements allow you to import garlic at an ad valorem customs duty rate whereas non-quota imports are subject to both an ad valorem duty rate and a specific duty rate per tonne. For the different valuation methods, see the guide on how to value your imports for customs duty and trade statistics.
You should check whether your trading records will qualify you as a traditional importer or as a new importer of garlic.
The distinction between traditional and new importers determines who can apply for garlic import licences under tariff quotas.
Under a new European Regulation, Commission Regulation (EU) No 328/2010, the category of importers permitted to apply for import licences under the tariff quota system will be enlarged to include exporters of garlic to third countries who meet certain criteria and who lodge a prescribed security per tonne. While the Regulation itself applies from 1 May 2010, calculation of the reference period and the submission of proof of the imported garlic will only apply from 1 February 2011. You can download Commission Regulation (EU) No 328/2010 on the new garlic importer rights from the Europa website (PDF, 712K).
You’ll need an import licence for imports of certain apples. If you have questions about whether your goods will require an import licence, you can email the RPA team that deals with their import directly at email@example.com.
Other fresh fruit and vegetables
From time to time, other products may have a minimum import price fixed to them, so if the import price is less than the minimum price, a countervailing charge may be levied to bring the amount you pay up to the minimum price.
Processed fruit and vegetables
Various types of processed fruit and vegetables require an import licence from time to time. If you have questions about whether your goods will require an import licence, you can email the RPA team that deals with their import directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help and support for CAP goods importers
As an importer of CAP goods, you can turn to a range of bodies for help and further information.
The government organisation with primary responsibility for providing information for the trade is the RPA, an executive agency to Defra. You can find information for importers on the Defra website.
Organisations that can help
In addition to Defra, other government bodies provide help to importers of CAP goods.
- Food Standards Agency (FSA) - find information on importing food and food products on the FSA website
- HMRC - find guidance on importing goods under the CAP in Notice 780 common agricultural policy import procedures and special directions for goods.
RPA External Trade Helpline
Telephone: 03300 416 500
Telephone: 03459 33 55 77
Telephone: 03000 200 301