Plant Health Guide: guidance for importers

The guide summarises the plant health controls which apply to the import into Scotland of plants, seeds, plant products, plant pests, soil and growing medium from countries outside the European Union.


Phytosanitary certificates / Reforwarding phytosanitary certificates

13. In general, all the plants and some categories of plant products that are permitted to enter Scotland from countries outside the EU must be accompanied by a phytosanitary ("plant health") certificate. This will include all major fruit (other than bananas and grapes), cut flowers, some seed and leafy vegetables, and potatoes from a limited number of countries. A phytosanitary certificate is essentially a statement issued by the plant health authorities in the exporting country that the material to which it relates has been officially inspected in the country of origin (or country of despatch), complies with statutory requirements for entry into the EU and is free from certain serious pests and diseases. Details of these requirements are set out in Schedule 4 of the order are summarised at Appendix A . Where there are options for compliance provided in Schedule 4, the particular option used must be specified on the phytosanitary certificate under the heading 'additional declaration'.

14. Reforwarding phytosanitary certificates are required if, after a phytosanitary certificate has been issued in the country of origin, the consignment is stored, repacked or split up in another non- EU country before being exported to the EU.

15. If a phytosanitary certificate or reforwarding phytosanitary certificate is required for a consignment to enter Scotland it must meet the following conditions:

(i) Each consignment must be accompanied by either a phytosanitary certificate or a phytosanitary certificate and a reforwarding phytosanitary certificate. In the case of postal consignments, the certificate(s) must be enclosed in an envelope and affixed securely to the outside of the package marked 'For the attention of HM Revenue and Customs'.

(ii) The inspection referred to in the certificate(s) must have occurred no more than 14 days before the date of dispatch of the consignment and the certificate(s) must have been signed within the same 14 day period.

(iii) The certificate(s) must include all of the necessary additional declarations as set out in Schedule 4 of the Order.

(iv) The certificate(s) must be issued by the official plant protection service of the exporting country or re-exporting country. Any certificates issued by a state, province, or regional or local government are not acceptable unless it is the only one empowered to issue certificates in that part of the country. For example, only certificates issued by the Federal Department of Agriculture in the USA are acceptable; state certificates are not.

(v) The certificate(s) must be signed by or on behalf of an authorised officer of the plant protection service of the issuing country.

(vi) Certificates issued in a language other than English must be accompanied by a translation. If the translation is a separate document, it too must be signed by an authorised officer.

(vii) When a consignment has been moved between two or more non- EU countries prior to export to Scotland, it must be accompanied by a reforwarding phytosanitary certificate attached to either the original phytosanitary certificate or a copy of the original certificate, as long as this is certified as a true copy by an authorised officer.

16. To enable HMU officers to undertake the necessary checks, details of the quantity of material within the consignment should be included on the phytosanitary certificate under the heading ' Quantity declared'. This information is additional to the number of packages, which should also be included under the heading ' Number and description of packages'. If known, container numbers may also be included here. The unit of quantity used should reflect those specified in the Plant Health (Import Inspection Fees)(Scotland) Regulations 2005 (as amended) and are set out below:

  • Fruit, vegetables, potatoes, grain and soil (where not prohibited) - the weight in kilograms.
  • Cut flowers - the number of stems.
  • Branches with foliage - the weight in kilograms.
  • Plants for planting - the unit depends upon the nature of the material. Bulbs, corms & rhizomes, plants in tissue culture and seeds should be specified by weight. For other planting material the number of items should be included.

Registration of importers

17. Any business or individual involved in importing material that requires a phytosanitary certificate through ports or airports in Scotland must first register with HMU (see paragraph 25 for arrangements for clearance of postal imports). There is no charge for registration and HMRC will be unable to clear any consignments imported by unregistered traders.

18. For imports via ports or airports in England and Wales, registration has to be through the PEACH system; see Defra's PEACH website at: for information. If you require any assistance to use the PEACH system, contact the PEACH Helpdesk (contact details are at Appendix B ). Similar registration arrangements also apply for Northern Ireland.

19. There are certain obligations which a registered importer must follow. Details on these and guidance on registration can be provided by contacting HMU (contact details are at Appendix B ).

Points of entry

20. Certain ports and airports in Scotland have been designated as points of entry for plant health purposes. In order to be designated as a point of entry, facilities must be in place by port or airport operators to enable plant health inspectors to carry out a thorough inspection of the consignment. These facilities have to be approved by HMU. A list of the designated points of entry in the UK can be found at:

Material imported through non-designated points of entry will be held until plant health inspectors have ensured that there are the minimum facilities to enable the port to be designated as a point of entry. Similar arrangements apply in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. For more information contact Fera or DARDNI.

Pre-arrival notification

21. All commercial importers are required to provide the relevant plant health authority with advance notification of landing of consignments of material that require phytosanitary certificates. For consignments imported through points of entry in Scotland, importers are required to provide HMU with pre-arrival notification through the Notice of Landing Form. This can be obtained from HMU (contact details are at Appendix B ) and on completion must be returned by e-mail or fax. Notification should be made at least two working days prior to landing. For England and Wales, the PEACH system is used (see If you require any assistance, contact the PEACH Helpdesk. (contact details are at Appendix B ).

Presentation of documents

22. On landing of a consignment via all points of entry in Scotland, the original phytosanitary certificate or reforwarding phytosanitary certificate must be made available for the HMU officers. This will allow them to carry out documentary, identity and physical checks.

23. For consignments landing into England and Wales, a copy of the phytosanitary certificate together with a copy of the Air Waybill, Bill of lading, Cargo Movement Request as appropriate), or invoice/delivery note must be faxed or emailed to the following:

Ensure that a note of the PEACH Reference Number is added to the cover sheet of the fax or to the header of the email, and include contact details (include telephone number and email address).

24. Where consignments are landed in another Member State prior to being transported to Scotland, the original phytosanitary certificate will be kept by that Member State and a Plant Health Movement Document substituted. This should be presented at import on arrival into Scotland (see paragraph 22) in lieu of the phytosanitary certificate.

25. Consignments to be imported by post should have the relevant certificates enclosed in an envelope and affixed securely to the outside of the package marked "For the attention of HM Revenue and Customs". If the certificate relates to more than one package, the original certificate should be attached to one of them in this way and a certified copy of it attached to each of the others.

Inspection of imported material

26. All controlled plants and plant produce imported into Scotland will be subject to inspection at the point of entry by HMU officers. An inspection is made up of three parts:

  • Documentary check (to confirm the phytosanitary certificate is accurate);
  • Identity check (to confirm that the consignment is what it is said to be); and
  • Physical check (to confirm the material is free from quarantine pests and diseases).

27. Other material which does not require a phytosanitary certificate may also be liable to random inspection to ensure that it does not contain prohibited pests or diseases. Any consignments which are found to contain pests or diseases, which are landed in contravention of plant health legislation, or where the documentation is not adequate, may be destroyed, treated or re-exported at the importer's own expense and risk.

28. All consignments of plant health controlled material must be inspected at the point at which they first enter the EU prior to release into trade by Customs. It is permissible for inspections to be carried out elsewhere, for example at temporary storage premises, such as an Enhanced Remote Transit Shed ( ERTS), or a designated premise under the Customs Freight Simplified Procedure ( CFSP), subject to compliance with certain conditions designed to ensure adequate plant health and customs control. In Scotland, in addition to meeting HMRC requirements, such premises must also meet the necessary requirements for inland plant health inspections and must be officially authorised for this purpose.

29. Information on the application process to have premises authorised as an ERTS or to upgrade an existing ERTS authorisation to allow inland plant health inspection to be carried out, can be obtained from ERTS information paper available on the HMRC website at:, or from the address at Appendix B . Details of ERTS currently approved as inspection points for plant health purposes can be found at:

30. Information on the application process for use of CFSP can be found at:

31. There is provision within the Plant Health Directive for inspections of some controlled material to be carried out at reduced frequency (this is based on a random sample rather than each consignment) if there is evidence, based on previous imports, of little or no plant health risk. Information on specific commodities which qualify for reduced levels of inspection can be found at: Inspection levels can be increased if there is evidence of an increase in the plant health risk through findings of pests or diseases.

32. Importers are strongly advised to ensure that all outer packaging used is clearly and accurately labeled. This will make it easier and quicker to identity material for inspection, thus speeding up the process. This is particularly important for importers of mixed consignments of aquatic plants and fish, as all planting material will be detained (including that entering out of normal working hours) for inspection prior to release.

33. When the documentary and identity checks, and physical inspections are successfully completed, HMU officers will issue a Quarantine Release Certificate. For England and Wales, this can be printed off from the PEACH system.

34. The importer or their agent will need to communicate electronically with the HMRCCHIEF system and forward a copy of the Quarantine Release Certificate to the National Clearance Hub by fax: 0800 4960699 or email: HMRC will release the material into free circulation only after they have received a copy of the Quarantine Release Certificate.

Inspection Charges

35. Inspection charges apply to consignments of material which require phytosanitary certificates for import into Scotland from non- EU countries. Information on charges for plant health import inspections can be provided by HMU (contact details are at Appendix B ).

36. For trades subject to reduced levels of inspection, a reduced inspection charge is applied pro rata to all consignments from the trade. These charges may be amended annually in line with changes to levels of inspection, and exceptionally immediately and without prior notice (see paragraph 31).

Protected zones

37. Certain areas of the EU that are free from plant pests usually established elsewhere in the EU have been designated "protected zones". Plants and plant produce that are hosts of these pests must reach higher plant health standards before entering these zones. Scotland is a protected zone for Colorado beetle ( Leptinotarsa decemlineata), Tobacco whitefly ( Bemisia tabaci), and a number of forestry pests. Plants and plant produce imported into Scotland which are potential hosts of these pests will be deemed to have met the higher plant health requirements by the issue of the accompanying phytosanitary certificate. Northern Ireland has additional Protected Zones and movement of certain material to Northern Ireland may be further restricted.

Personal allowances for travellers

38. Certain exemptions are allowed from the need for phytosanitary certificates for controlled plants and plant produce imported in travellers' personal baggage. Further details are contained in the information leaflet, " If in doubt, leave it out!" which is available from Fera (see Appendix B for contact details) or on line at:

Plant passporting

39. Some material (mainly plants and planting material) will need to be issued with a plant passport before further movement within the EU is permitted. For further information see The Plant Health Guide to Plant Passporting and Marketing Requirements available from HMU at the address at Appendix B , or on-line at:

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