International trade products and schemes

Sources of advice and financial support for UK farmers exporting agricultural products to the EU and beyond


The UK and the EU operate several schemes designed to encourage consumption of farming and agricultural produce. Some of these offer advice and financial support to UK farm producers exporting to other EU countries and beyond.

There are also organisations - such as the International Agri-Technology Centre (IATC) - that can provide specialist export advice for your farming sector.

Another form of support for exporters is in the issue of certificates of free sale at no charge to farmers and growers. Certificates of free sale are guarantees to foreign markets requiring them that UK manufactured agricultural food and drink products are safe.

Exporters can also claim refunds on export duties.

This guide outlines the main advisory and financial support services for UK exporters of agricultural produce - including fruit and vegetables, animal and genetic products. It also explains how the EU supports individual products and the promotional activities of trade bodies.

Advice for exporters of agricultural and food products

You can get sector-specific information about agricultural product exporting from the IATC.

The IATC works with UK Trade & Investment to promote UK agri-businesses through UK Trade & Investment’s network of international contacts. It also helps overseas companies looking for UK agricultural products to find agri-businesses in this country.

Exporters can get specific advice in areas such as:

  • fish and fish products
  • timber and wood products

For advice and guidance on Export Health Certificates, you should contact the Animal Health International Trade Centre on 01228 403 600. They will confirm whether a certificate is required and will be able to provide you with a specimen certificate. These certificates are known as Intra (Community) Trade Animal Health Certificates, which are issued via the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) database.

Overseas market reports

If you want to export to a specific country or market, you can download agricultural market reports.

UK Trade & Investment also provides free information services for agricultural exporters.

Find out about export research services on the UK Trade & Investment website.

Business opportunities for agricultural exporters

The IATC can also give exporters information about current business opportunities, including:

  • private sector investments
  • joint ventures, investments and cooperative partnering
  • public sector business, including tenders
  • multilateral aid

Exporter and importer alert service

Any business exporting from or importing to the UK can register for email alerts from UK Trade & Investment. This free service delivers multi-department messages, such as changes to current export guidance.

You can find agricultural and agri-technology news, briefings and business opportunities on the UK Trade & Investment website.

You can also register for import and export alerts on the uktradeinfo website.

Support for fruit and vegetable growers

EU fruit or vegetable producers may be eligible for financial assistance under one or more of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) schemes operating in the EU. In the UK, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) runs most CAP schemes.

The Single Payment Scheme

Growers can apply for support under the SPS - the EU’s main agricultural subsidy. To qualify, you must maintain high standards of production - known as Statutory Management Requirements (SMRs). You must also preserve and try to improve the quality of your land by working to the good agricultural and environmental condition (GAEC) standards. Together, the SMR and GAEC requirements are known as cross compliance. See our section on SPS, cross compliance and stewardship.

Fresh fruit and vegetables aid (producer organisation) scheme

The EU supports fruit or vegetable producers in recognised Producer Organisations (PO) - or recognised Associations of Producer Organisations (APOs). POs and APOs may be eligible for financial assistance under the EU Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Aid Scheme.

POs and APOs in the UK must apply to the RPA for recognition. Once recognised, organisations can apply for EU funding of operational programmes designed to:

  • encourage the use of environmentally friendly growing techniques
  • improve produce quality, marketing and end value

You can find the detail on the fresh fruit and vegetables aid scheme on the RPA website.

Download a list of approved POs under the fresh fruit and vegetables aid scheme from the RPA website (PDF, 21KB).

Area Payment for Nuts Scheme (APNS)

Nut growers can apply to the RPA for payments based on area grown for these varieties:

  • almonds
  • hazelnuts or filberts
  • walnuts
  • pistachios
  • locust beans (carob pods)

Find out about the APNS on the RPA website.

Rural Development Programme for England

The RDPE is the UK’s main funding support mechanism for rural communities and businesses.

For more information, see the guide on trading in fruit, vegetables and plant products.

For more information on the RPA schemes to support growers, see the guide on fruit and vegetables.

Grower and exporter obligations

Certain agricultural support schemes are funded in part by growers, as is the case with R&D carried out on behalf of growers by the Horticultural Development Company (HDC). Changes in standards also supports growers when requirements are revoked thus saving on costs and time to market of produce.

How R&D works for the horticultural industry

The HDC facilitates near-market horticultural R&D and associated technology transfer to improve the profitability of the British horticulture industry.

To fund the cost of this research, you are required to pay a levy if you grow or trade horticultural products or their derivatives and your adjusted sales turnover is greater than £60,000 in any year ending 31 March. For most crops, the levy is 0.5 per cent of annual turnover.

For purposes of the levy, horticultural products include vegetables grown in the open, fruit, flowers and bulbs, hardy and other nursery stock, protected crops and herbs. Mushrooms are also included, but pay on a different basis. Separate arrangements apply to potatoes.

Reduced EU marketing standards

European Community (EC) marketing standards for most types of fresh fruit and vegetables, salad crops, nuts and cultivated mushrooms fell away in 2009.

However, you must continue to comply with specific marketing standards (SMS) for ten types of crops:

  • fruit - apples, citrus fruit, kiwifruit, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, and table grapes
  • vegetables and salads - lettuces  and curled-leaved and broad-leaved endives, sweet peppers and tomatoes

For nearly all other fruit, vegetable and salad crops, a General Marketing Standard (GMS) exists. Under GMS, the size and shape of produce is not relevant, but you must ensure that produce meets or exceeds certain standards. In general, it must be sound and in fair condition for marketing purposes. You must also label produce to show its country of origin.

If you are an importer of fresh fruit and/or vegetables, then any of the above produce that you sell, display or offer for sale, deliver or market must be graded and labelled according to the particular standards that apply to that type of produce. For imports of these crops, a PEACH (Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates) notification is required. 

For more information, see the guide on trading in fruit, vegetables and plant products.

For more information on the RPA schemes to support growers, see the guide on fruit and vegetables.

Certificates of free sale

Certificates of free sale are documents produced by the RPA to accompany certain exports. Free of charge to exporters, they are often used for exports to Middle East countries.

The documents are guarantees to the importing country that the UK product is no risk to consumer health, and also that it is sold freely within the exporter’s country.

You can apply to the RPA for a certificate of free sale for:

  • manufactured foods
  • soft drinks
  • health food supplements
  • food additives
  • pet foods
  • tea, cocoa and coffee
  • herbs and spices
  • animal feeding stuffs
  • alcoholic drinks
  • milk and milk products
  • sugar and sugar syrups
  • malt and flour
  • protein crops

Find out about certificates of free sale on the RPA website.

Exporters are themselves responsible for finding out which permits and documentation the destination country requires. For more information on the relevant permits, see our page on export regulations in the food and drink sector in the guide on food and drink.

International trade in live animals and animal products

International trade in live animals and animal products, including genetic material, is regulated mainly by Animal Health - an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The agency is responsible for maintaining the health and welfare of farmed animals in England and Wales.

Exporting to European Union countries

If you are exporting live animals to EU countries, you will need an export health certificate. You can get application forms from your local Animal Health office, or contact the agency’s central operations team for exports.

Find contact details for the central operations team for exports on the Defra website.

You can also apply online for an export health certificate for trade within the EU using the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES - see the guide on using TRACES to trade in animals and animal products.

There are specific export regulations for individual animal species and products.

Defra issues regular customer information notes (CINs) - containing news of the latest developments in international trade.

Read CINs for animal and animal products on the Defra website.

Exporting to non-EU countries

Animals or animal products can be exported to third countries - those outside the EU - if the destination country has agreed an export health certificate with the UK. Other documents may be required by the importing country, and it is the exporter’s responsibility to find out what these are.

Before exporting to non-EU countries, you should:

  • check whether a suitable export health certificate is available
  • contact Animal Health’s central operations for exports department if you have any routine queries on export controls and procedures
  • contact the destination country’s veterinary authorities to find out about import conditions
  • discuss the exports with your veterinarian
  • check animal movement licence requirements
  • confirm animal welfare requirements
  • check Convention on International Endangered Species requirements
  • check marketing rules
  • check the requirements of the ferry or airline company
  • confirm HM Revenue & Customs procedures

Once you are familiar with the requirements of your destination non-EU country, you can apply for an export health certificate via Exports On Line (EOL) on the Defra website.

Importing animals and animal products

Strict health controls are in place in connection with the import of livestock and animal products into the UK - whether from EU countries or those beyond the community. Some items not covered by EU regulations need a general import licence.

Importer information notes (IINs) list requirements for individual categories of imports of live animals and products of animal origin from EU and non-EU countries.

Find IINs for animal imports on the Defra website.

Specific advice is available for importers of genetic material.

Export refund rates

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) lets UK businesses claim back export duties paid on raw agricultural materials - such as cereals, sugar, eggs, milk and butter - used in processed agricultural products. These are also called ‘Non-Annex I’ products and include:

  • chocolate
  • confectionery
  • soft drinks
  • biscuits
  • breakfast cereals

You can get the refunds by applying in advance to the RPA through the Small Exporters’ Reserve if you claim for less than €100,000 in a year, or by using the export refund certificate procedure. Refund payments are made in six instalments, spread throughout the year. However, exporters and manufacturers must meet strict criteria and applications must be accompanied by a security of 35 per cent of the value of the requested export refund certificate.

The RPA lists details of current export refund rates for:

  • beef
  • cereals
  • eggs
  • fruit and vegetables
  • milk
  • pig meat
  • processed goods
  • poultry
  • rice
  • sugar/syrup

Find out about export refund rates on the RPA website.

European Union funding for promotions

The EU funds agricultural product trade organisations to stimulate consumption both within and outside the EU. This is called the EU market information and promotions scheme.

For news on either of the schemes described below, you need to be on the RPA mailing list. You can email the RPA at or you can contact the RPA Customer Service Centre on 0345 603 7777.

Trade promotions within the EU

The RPA can apply once a year to the European Commission for limited funding for trade promotion within the EU. These promotions must be on at least a national scale.

Products which may be eligible include:

  • fresh fruit and vegetables
  • processed fruit and vegetables
  • fibre flax
  • live plants and products of ornamental horticulture
  • olive oil and table olives
  • rapeseed oil and sunflower oil
  • milk and milk products
  • fresh, chilled or frozen meat - quality scheme accredited
  • marking of eggs for human consumption
  • honey and other apiculture products
  • wines with protected designation of origin or protected geographical indication
  • wines with indication of grape variety
  • graphic symbol for outermost regions
  • products with protected designation of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI) and traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG)
  • organic farming and products
  • poultry meat

Applications must be received at RPA by 30 November each year.

Read guidance on EU market information and promotions schemes on the RPA website.

Trade promotions outside the EU

Agricultural trade organisations can apply once a year for funding to support promotional activities in certain ‘third countries’ and geographical areas. As with the EU version of the EU Market Information and Promotions scheme, programmes must be on a national scale or larger.

The scheme applies to the following agricultural products:

  • fresh, chilled and frozen beef, veal and pig meat and foods prepared from them
  • poultry meat
  • milk products
  • olive oil and table olives
  • wines with protected designation of origin or protected geographical indication
  • wines that identify the variety of grape used
  • spirit drinks with protected geographical indication
  • fresh and processed fruit and vegetables
  • products processed from cereals and rice
  • fibre flax
  • live plants and ornamental horticultural products
  • products with a PDO, PGI or TSG rating
  • organic farming products

Applications must be received at RPA by 31 March each year.

Find out about EU funding of third-country promotions of UK agricultural products on the RPA website.

Organisations dealing with international trade products and schemes

Below are details of organisations that can offer advice on international trade farming products and schemes.

IATC works with UK Trade & Investment to promote agricultural and food businesses through UK Trade & Investment’s network of international contacts. The IATC can also help overseas companies looking for UK agri-businesses to supply agricultural products.

One of the major roles of Defra is to help the farming industry operate as efficiently as possible. Defra administers European support policies that provide around £3 billion to UK agriculture. They also oversee a number of agencies that work with arable farmers, imports and exports of crops, and implement pest and disease controls. You can call the Defra Helpline on 08459 33 55 77.

The RPA is responsible for rural licensing and payment programmes such as rural inspections and the Single Payment Scheme (SPS). For more information about the SPS and how it can help your farming business, you can call the RPA Helpline on 0345 603 7777.

You can also read the guide on the SPS.

In England, the Farm Advisory System advises farmers about cross compliance. For further information call the Cross Compliance Helpline on 0345 345 1302.

You can also read the guide on cross compliance: the basics.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) represents the farmers of England and Wales. It aims to promote successful and socially responsible agriculture and horticulture, while ensuring the long-term viability of rural communities.

You can read about the work of the NFU on the NFU website.

Farmers are likely to come into contact with local authorities over a number of farming, land use, food standards and environmental regulations. Your local authority may also be able to provide further information or resources.

You can find contact details for your local authority through our Contacts Directory.

Further information

Animal Health International Trade Centre

01228 403 600

Defra Helpline

08459 33 55 77

RPA Customer Service Centre

0345 603 7777

RPA Fruit and Vegetable Helpline (Producer Organisation)

0191 226 5491

RPA Helpline

0345 603 7777

Animal Health Helpline

01905 763 355

Export market research services on the UK Trade & Investment website

Certificates of free sale criteria and application forms on the RPA website

Import and export alert registration on the uktradeinfo website

Agricultural scheme information on the RPA website

Download a list of approved producer organisations under the fresh fruit and vegetables aid scheme from the RPA website (PDF, 21K)

APNS information on the RPA website

Exporting and importing live animals and animal products explained on the Defra website

Export refund rates information on the RPA website

EU market information and promotions scheme guidance on the RPA website

EU support for promotion of agricultural products explained on website

EU funding of third-country agricultural products explained on the RPA website

Cross compliance information on the Cross Compliance website

Farming advice on the NFU website

Published 12 September 2012
Last updated 13 June 2013 + show all updates
  1. Fixing references to specialist guides
  2. First published.