Guidance

Using the PEACH system to import plants and fresh produce

How to register with and use the Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates (PEACH) online system to comply with regulations when importing plants or fruits and vegetables.

Introduction

The Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates (PEACH) is an online tool for fulfilling a number of important requirements when importing plants or fruits and vegetables that are subject to Specific Marketing Standards into the UK from outside the European Community.

Imports of plants and plant products must be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate to confirm their health. You must provide advance notice through PEACH that a consignment is about to enter the UK.

This guide explains how to register with and use PEACH. It outlines the regulations that PEACH can help you comply with, and it sets out the steps involved in using PEACH to apply for a Certificate of Conformity or to pre-notify plant health-controlled imports.

PEACH applies to England and Wales but not Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, it does apply to Scottish and Northern Ireland businesses, whose imports arrive from either England or Wales. Scottish importers should contact the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate on 08457 741 741. Those from Northern Ireland should contact the DARD Helpline on 028 9052 4999. 

An overview of the PEACH system

The PEACH system helps you comply with pre-notification requirements for certain consignments being imported into the EU.

PEACH can be used for consignments of fruit, vegetables, nuts and other goods covered by the European Community (EC) Marketing Standards and consignments of goods covered by plant health regulations.

PEACH and the EC Marketing Standards

Two distinct sets of EC Marketing Standards stipulate quality and labelling requirements for consignments of fresh produce being imported into the UK from any non-EU country. You can find the new and existing fresh fruit and vegetables marketing standards on the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) website.

A Certificate of Conformity - issued by the UK’s Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate (HMI) - indicates whether a consignment has met the quality and labelling requirements as set out in the EC Marketing Standards. However, since July 2009, a range of fruit and vegetables no longer requires an HMI conformity certificate at import.

However, the following ten types of fresh fruit and vegetables must continue to comply with Specific Marketing Standards and will continue to require notification prior to import and certification:

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

If you do not have a Conformity Certificate for any of these commodities your consignments will not be cleared to free circulation in the UK. All consignments must be accompanied by a Certificate before they can be customs cleared.

Register for PEACH on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website.

The PEACH system may be used by traders - or their agents - to apply for a Certificate of Conformity. However, use of PEACH is not mandatory for this purpose. Paper applications will also be accepted, although the goods in question will normally be subject to a physical inspection.

PEACH and plant health regulations

PEACH also deals with import consignments covered by EU-wide plant health regulations. These require that most plants, some plant products and produce imported from outside the EU be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate and that imports of these goods must be pre-notified to the UK’s Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate.

Traders - and their agents - must use the PEACH system to pre-notify any import consignments of goods requiring a phytosanitary certificate. Using PEACH is mandatory in this instance - there is no paper-based alternative.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) also require a quarantine release certificate (QRC), issued following completion of inspection formalities, to secure the release of plant-health controlled consignments into free circulation. The QRC can be printed from the PEACH system and faxed to HMRC.

You can download guidance on which products are covered by the plant health regulations from the Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) website (PDF, 403K).

You can also download a user guide to pre-notification on PEACH from the Fera website (PDF, 1.3MB).

The PEACH system applies to England and Wales but not to Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, it does apply to Scottish and Northern Irish businesses whose imports arrive first in English or Welsh ports. Scottish importers should contact the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate on 08457 741 741. Those from Northern Ireland should contact the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) Helpline on 028 9052 4999. 

How to open a PEACH account

To open your PEACH account, you will also need to register with the Government Gateway.

There are a number of steps involved in opening the two accounts. The first step is to open a PEACH account. Register for the PEACH system from Defra. Entering your contact details generates the first of two pieces of information, or ‘known facts’, which are used to identify you. The first known fact is your Company ID. Once your application has been approved, you are sent the second known fact - your trader number.

You will then need a Government Gateway account to log in to PEACH, so the next step is to register as a new user on the Government Gateway website - find out about registering for online government services at the Government Gateway website. You are recommended to print out the screen containing your new User ID and keep it in a safe place. You can also use an existing account, if, for example, you have registered for another service on the Government Gateway. If you register with our site you will automatically receive a Government Gateway account.

Download a guide to registering on the Government Gateway from the RPA website You’ll need your User ID and your Government Gateway password to log in to the PEACH system for the first time.

The PEACH system applies to England and Wales but not to Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, it does apply to Scottish and Northern Ireland businesses whose imports arrive first through English or Welsh points of entry. Scottish importers should contact the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate on 08457 741 741. Those from Northern Ireland should contact the DARD Trade Helpline on 028 9052 0207. 

Using the PEACH system

The PEACH system has a range of useful features. Its online tools can save your business administration time and can also enhance your business efficiency. Using the tools that PEACH offers enables you to move your consignments through customs with the minimum of delay.

Many of the forms you complete will require the same core information. To save you time, your completed application forms are saved for re-use. You can re-use this information on future applications from the drop down list under Use a previous form. If you are an agent with a number of traders linked to you, you will need to select the trader on whose behalf you are making the application.

Similarly, as a trader you may choose from a number of agents you have been previously linked to. A trader-agent link can be made when both parties have contacted the PEACH helpdesk or their local office. Register for PEACH on the Defra website.

Use the View Outstanding Applications button to see all of your outstanding applications, with their current risk assessment. To find out what the symbols mean, select Show Legend at the top of the screen.

If you have a large number of applications on the PEACH system, you can locate a specific application - outstanding or completed - using the search facility. If the application number you enter is valid, the application will be displayed.

If you are applying for a Certificate of Conformity you can use the PEACH system to print out your certificate, once your application has been approved. If your consignment is refused entry, you’ll be told why your consignment failed its inspection and what you need to do to bring it into conformity. Common reasons for consignments being refused entry include missing information pertaining to country of origin, or incorrect labelling.

If you are using PEACH to pre-notify of an import consignment under the plant-health regulations, once all the necessary checks have been made by the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate you will be able to print out a Quarantine Release Certificate from the PEACH system. This enables clearance of the goods when faxed to HMRC.

When pre-notifying consignments due to arrive by air, you must notify the Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) at least four working hours’ ahead of their expected arrival time. For all other imports you must give PHSI at least three working days’ advance notification.

The PEACH system applies to England and Wales but not to Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, it does apply to Scottish and Northern Ireland businesses whose imports arrive first through English or Welsh points of entry. Scottish importers should contact the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate on 08457 741 741. Those from Northern Ireland should contact the DARD Helpline on 028 9052 4999. 

The laws PEACH can help you to comply with

When you’re importing commercially, it’s important to know about regulations that apply to specific products as well as general legislation that might affect your business.

The PEACH system helps businesses to comply with two key sets of regulations.

The EC Marketing Standards

Two sets of standards are set out in European and UK legislation - the Specific Marketing Standard (SMS) and the General Marketing Standard (GMS) - and they impose both quality standards and labelling requirements.

The SMS regulates ten types of fresh produce - apples, table grapes, kiwi fruit, citrus, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, lettuce (including curled-leaved and broad-leaved endives), sweet peppers and tomatoes.

The GMS applies to most other fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs and cultivated mushrooms that are not intended for processing.

You can read about these marketing standards and access their guidance on the RPA website

Many popular types of fruit, vegetables and nuts are excluded from EC Marketing Standards - eg potatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas and peanuts.

For more information on importing regulated fruit and vegetables, you can contact your regional Horticultural Marketing Inspectors on the RPA website.

The EU Plant Health Directive

Under the EU-wide plant health regime, imports to the UK of most plants and some plant products and produce from outside the EU must be accompanied by a phytosanitary (or ‘plant health’) certificate. Imports of these goods must also be notified in advance to the PHSI.

Broadly speaking, the rules cover all planting material, all major fruit (excluding bananas and grapes), cut flowers, some leafy vegetables, as well as potatoes from a limited number of countries.

The phytosanitary certificate confirms that the goods have been inspected in the country of origin and are free from certain serious pests and diseases and substantially free from other harmful organisms. The inspection referred to in a phytosanitary certificate must have been carried out no more than 14 days before the date of dispatch of the import consignment in question.

HMRC also require a QRC, issued following completion of inspection formalities, to secure the release of plant-health controlled consignments into free circulation. The QRC can be printed from the PEACH system and faxed to HMRC.

For more information about importing controlled plants, you can download a plant health guide for importers from the Defra website (PDF, 107K).

For more information about importing foodstuffs and other organic produce, see agriculture, horticulture and fisheries and food and drink.

The PEACH system applies to England and Wales but not to Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, it does apply to Scottish and Northern Ireland businesses whose imports arrive first through English or Welsh points of entry. Scottish importers should contact the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate on 08457 741 741. Those from Northern Ireland should contact the DARD Helpline on 028 9052 4999.

How to apply for a Certificate of Conformity using PEACH

The PEACH system can help you apply for the Certificate of Conformity needed for specific imports of fresh produce from outside the EU.

To obtain a Certificate of Conformity, you must first enrol on the PEACH service. Register for the PEACH system from the Defra website

To access the service, you need your Government Gateway User ID and password from when you registered on PEACH.

The PEACH system is designed to be user friendly. If you have any difficulties, you can contact the PEACH Helpdesk on 0345 607 3224 or email them at peachenquiries@defra.gsi.gov.uk

The PEACH system applies to England and Wales but not to Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, it does apply to Scottish and Northern Ireland businesses whose imports arrive first through English or Welsh points of entry. Scottish importers should contact the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate on 08457 741 741. Those from Northern Ireland should contact the DARD Helpline on 028 9052 4999. 

Import Risk Assessment for goods requiring a Certificate of Conformity

If you import fresh fruit, vegetables, salad crops or nuts into the UK from outside the EU, and they are subject to the EC Specific Marketing Standards, they may need a physical inspection. This inspection is carried out by the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate (HMI), and the produce must pass the inspection before a Certificate of Conformity is granted.

For applications made using the Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates (PEACH) system, a risk assessment is conducted using the Import Risk Assessment System (IRAS). Each consignment is given a risk category. They are:

  • red for high risk - where possible, all consignments in this category are physically inspected
  • amber for medium risk - for consignments placed in the amber category, an inspector will decide whether a physical inspection is necessary
  • green for low risk - consignments in this category are automatically granted a Certificate of Conformity

There are ten criteria that determine these risk categories. Find guidance on the IRAS risk criteria on the RPA website.

Physical inspections usually take place at the point of entry of your consignment. However, if you apply for - and meet - the requirements of the Local Clearance Procedure within Customs Freight Simplified Procedures (CFSP), the inspections may be carried out at your own premises. Read about the CFSP system on the HMRC website.

If your imported goods are covered by both the EC Marketing Standards and by plant health regulations, your consignment will only be inspected once. HMI inspectors have been trained to identify key plant health issues and plant health inspectors will notify HMI of any marketing standards concerns that arise.

“Paper” applications for Certificates of Conformity can be made without using the PEACH system and sent to the inspectors at the point of entry of your consignment or to a local HMI office. However, these applications are normally treated as red - high risk - and are subject to a physical inspection and could result in delays before customs clearance. You should be aware that the responsibility for labour charges incurred in any such inspection is borne by the applicant of the certificate. Paper applications are not accepted for imports covered by plant-health regulations - these must be pre-notified using PEACH.

If your consignment fails to meet EC Marketing Standards, you will be liable for any charges needed to bring your consignment up to the required standard for entry into the UK. Labelling is a common reason for failure and could result in your whole consignment having to be checked. Any labour charges are borne by the applicant of the certificate.

Consignments must also comply with HMRC requirements. All documentation must be in order before a consignment is given customs clearance.

The PEACH system applies to England and Wales but not to Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, it does apply to Scottish and Northern Ireland businesses whose imports arrive first through English or Welsh points of entry. Scottish importers should contact the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate on 08457 741 741. Those from Northern Ireland should contact the DARD Helpline on 028 9052 4999.

How to pre-notify your plant-health controlled imports using PEACH

You must use the Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates (PEACH) system to provide advance notice to the Fera PHSI of any import consignments covered by plant health regulations. For more details about these regulations, you can download a guide to the plant health regime for importers from the Defra website (PDF, 107K).

To log in to the PEACH system, you will need the Government Gateway User ID and password generated when you first registered on PEACH.

There are three key stages in the process of providing advance notice to the PHSI of your plant health controlled imports so that they can be cleared to enter the country:

  1. You must register the details of your impending imports to PEACH.
  2. This information is received by PHSI inspectors, who then carry out physical inspections, documentary checks and identity checks in respect of each commodity being imported. You can monitor the progress of these checks through the PEACH system.
  3. When the physical, documentary and identity checks have been finished and approved, you will be able to clear the consignment by printing a Quarantine Release Certificate from PEACH and faxing it to HMRC.

The PEACH system applies to England and Wales but not to Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, it does apply to Scottish and Northern Irish businesses whose imports arrive first in English or Welsh ports. Scottish importers should contact the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate on 08457 741 741. Those from Northern Ireland should contact the DARD Helpline on 028 9052 4999. 

Making the most of PEACH

Once you feel confident using the PEACH system, there are a number of things you can do to save your business time and improve your efficiency.

PEACH automatically saves applications. If they are part-filled, they are saved for completion later - if they are completed, they are saved for re-use as templates. You can therefore use completed applications as templates for other applications, which will save you time.

If you employ an agent to handle your imported consignments, their details should be set up on the PEACH system. You and your agent should let their local regional inspection office or the PEACH helpline know that they will be representing your importing business. Contact your local Horticultural Inspections office on the RPA website.

The front page of the PEACH system has a link - Perform Bulk Uploads - which can be used to transfer bulk information from your system to PEACH. This facility is particularly useful for large importing businesses. You can download reference information to help you generate this file from the PEACH website.

The PEACH system also allows you to view statistics based on your applications. This tool can provide useful data for your business, for example, why your consignments have been given a high-risk assessment.

If you would like other people in your business to access your PEACH system, you can set up Assistants on your Government Gateway account. However, Assistants have limited access rights. They cannot enrol in new Gateway services or create or delete other Assistants or users. This can be useful if you, as the primary user, have used other systems on the Government Gateway and wish to restrict access to the information held on them.

The PEACH system applies to England and Wales but not to Scotland or Northern Ireland. However, it does apply to Scottish and Northern Ireland businesses whose imports arrive first through English or Welsh points of entry. Scottish importers should contact the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate on 08457 741 741. Those from Northern Ireland should contact the DARD Helpline on 028 9052 4999.

Further information

PEACH Helpdesk

0345 607 3224

Fera Plant Health Imports Helpdesk

0844 248 0071

Horticultural marketing standards guidance on the Rural Payments Agency website

Download guidance on which products are covered by the plant health regulations from the Fera website (PDF, 403K)

Approved status information by country on the RPA website

EC Marketing Standards guidance for fresh produce on the RPA website

Download PEACH registration guidance from the RPA website

IRAS risk criteria information on the RPA website

Download a user guide to pre-notification on PEACH from the Fera website (PDF, 1.3MB)

Horticultural Inspections office contact details on the RPA website

Download a list of PHSI offices from the Defra website (PDF)

Read about the marketing standards on the RPA website

Forms for trading internationally in plant and products controlled by plant health regulations on the Fera website

Customs Freight Simplified Procedures system guidance on the HMRC website

Import procedures information on the HMRC website

Import and export guidance on the HMRC website

Government Gateway information on the Government Gateway website

Published 9 October 2012