Licences for the import/export of agricultural products

Find out if you need a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) licence to become an importer/exporter of agricultural produce and how to apply.

If you want to import/export agricultural products to or from countries outside the EU or to certain entitled destinations, you will need a licence except in certain limited conditions.

The need for a licence will depend on the quantity of the product you will import or export. The type of licence required will depend on whether preferential schemes, full duty licences, Import Tariff Quotas (ITQs) or export refunds via an Advance Fixing Certificate (AFC) are available.

Read the Traders guide to importing and exporting CAP goods (ET1) (PDF, 207KB, 19 pages) leaflet

Check which licences and quotas are available for your products

If you intend to trade in agricultural products in the groups listed below, you will need a licence unless certain limited exceptions apply.

  • meat (beef and veal), pigmeat and poultry meat products
  • sugar
  • cereals and rice products
  • fruit and vegetables (including garlic and preserved mushrooms)
  • milk and milk products
  • processed goods
  • eggs
  • olive oil
  • ethyl alcohol
  • hemp

Exceptions may apply when exporting to entitled destinations such as ships. To find out about these, check the rules on exporting agricultural goods.

Within each scheme, products are defined under Commodity Codes (also known as CN Codes). To find out the types of licence that are available and the Commodity Code for your product, use the Trade Tariff.

This will tell you how much of a product you can import/export without a licence and what types of licence are available for the countries with which you intend to trade.

Licence rules and the availability of quotas change frequently. To make sure that you have the latest information, you can check the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) pages for announcements.

You can also contact RPA.

Rural Payments Agency
Lancaster House
Hampshire Court
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE4 7YH.
Telephone: 03300 416500

Read more about How RPA works with HMRC to help traders in the UK import and export food and agricultural products here

Types of import licence available

Import licence

An import licence allows you to import a quantity of goods within a set period. The details of the time limits are set out on the licence. Any import duty you have to pay will depend on rates in force on the day that you place the goods under Customs control.

Preferential Scheme

In some cases, products can be imported from certain countries where there is a preferential trading agreement between the region from which the goods will be imported and the EU. The preferential agreements may enable traders from the EU to benefit from reduced taxation, which will be covered in the licence.

Import Tariff Quota (ITQ)

It is possible to apply to import commodities that are subject to a tariff quota.

Applications for quotas are submitted to the European Commission by member states (RPA in the UK) from traders across the EU. If more traders apply to import the commodity than there is available quota then it will be allocated by the Commission proportionally.

To apply for a quota, you must have been engaged in trade with third countries over a 24 month period prior to your application and be VAT registered. The qualifying criteria may differ according to commodity and type of licence. Contact the Trader helpline or read the trader guidance for your specific commodity to find out about this.

Apply for an import licence

To get an import licence, you can complete an application for an import licence form (AGRIM) and return it to RPA.

You can apply without using an AGRIM, as long as your application contains all mandatory information.

You can email your licence application to us or send it by fax or post. If you wish to submit by email then you will need to be pre-approved to do so. For pre-approval, you need to complete and return a Licensing - Submission/Notification of emails (form il3) (PDF, 198KB, 2 pages) before submitting any licence applications.

Your licence will be issued in electronic format for customs clearance in the UK. You must ask for a paper version if you intend to use your licence to clear goods in another member state. You will need to request this in box 24 of the application form.

Types of export licence available

Standard export licence

To export more than a certain amount of some commodities, you will need a standard export licence. The Trade Tariff shows how much of a given commodity you can export without a licence.

Advance Fixing Certificate (AFC)

If an export refund is available for your commodity, an AFC will enable you to fix the refund rate in advance of exporting.

Export refunds are not currently available for any commodities. If they become available, details will be published on the Export refunds page.


If you tender for the opportunity to export certain products, then you must apply for a licence at the same time as you submit your bid. You will only have to pay security if you win the bid.

Apply for an export licence

Find out how to apply for a licence to export agricultural products.

Contact us

If you have any queries about importing or exporting, call the External Trade helpline on 03300 416 500 (open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm).

Relevant regulations

Commission Regulation (EC) No 376/2008 laying down common detailed rules for the application of the system of import and export licences and advance fixing certificates for agricultural products

Commission Regulation (EEC) No 120/89 laying down common detailed rules for the application of export levies and charges on agricultural products

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1301/2006 laying down common rules for the administration of import tariff quotas for agricultural products managed by a system of import licences

Commission Regulation (EC) No 1454/2007 laying down common rules for establishing a tender procedure for fixing export refunds for certain agricultural products

Council Regulation (EEC) no 918/83 setting up a Community system of reliefs from customs duty

Commission Regulation (EC) No 612/2009 on laying down common detailed rules for the application of the system of export refunds on agricultural products

Published 1 April 2014
Last updated 24 March 2020 + show all updates
  1. Minor updates to IL3 form.

  2. Removed outdated information.

  3. Updated guidance document 'Traders guide to importing and exporting CAP goods (ET1)'.

  4. First published.