Importing and exporting plants and plant products from 1 January 2021

10 June 2020


How to trade in plants and plant products, including trees, inside and outside the EU from 1 January 2021

‘Plant’ means a living plant (including a fungus or tree) or a living part of a plant (including a living part of a fungus or shrub), at any stage of growth.

‘Plant product’ means products of plant origin, unprocessed or having undergone simple preparation, in so far as these are not plants, including wood and bark.

Importing plants and plant products from the EU

The UK has left the EU and is in a transition period until 1 January 2021. This means that there will be new processes that exporters and importers will have to follow.

Exporting plants and plant products to the EU

The UK will become a third country and will need to meet EU third country import requirements to export regulated plants and plant products to the EU from 1 January 2021.

For exports to the EU third-country rules will apply on all:

The process for sending regulated plants and plant products to the EU will be the same as the current process for sending them to third countries. When you export regulated plants and plant products to third countries, you need to:

  • check whether a phytosanitary certificate (PC) is required by contacting the plant health authority or a plant health inspector in the destination country
  • apply for a PC from the relevant UK plant health authority before export
  • check if your plants require laboratory testing of samples to ensure they are free from pests and diseases or inspections during the growing season - contact your local plant health inspector to find out if your plants need these tests before exporting

These services are subject to fees and charges.

Regulated plant and plant products exports to the EU from the UK may be subject to checks at the EU border .

Steps to take now to prepare for 1 January 2021

To prepare for 1 January 2021 you need to:

Plant Passports and Pest Free Areas

Some plants and plant products must meet specific requirements to enter ‘protected zones’ within EU countries.

EU Protected Zones (PZs) allow EU member states to place controls on imports and movements between member states. This prevents the introduction or spread of plant pests and diseases which are present elsewhere in the EU but absent from the Protected Zone.

Changes to Protected Zones from 1 January 2021

The UK cannot designate all or parts of the UK as an EU Protected Zones from 1 January 2021.

The UK will replace the biosecurity protections provided by EU Protected Zones by creating 2 new designations.

Quarantine pest designation

Quarantine pests are plant pests and diseases which are not established and which would be damaging if introduced, where they are absent from the whole of the UK.

Quarantine pests are prohibited from entering the UK and are subject to statutory control if found on plants or plants products. The requirements to prevent the entry of these pests will remain the same from 1 January 2021.

Pest Free Areas (PFAs) designations

This will designate PFAs in line with international standards for those pests and diseases which are absent from part of the UK, but not the whole of the UK. PFAs are declared in line with recognised international standards and requirements. They can be applied to movements of plants and plant products into PFAs.

Both EU PZs and PFAs allow countries to control movements of plants and plant products which may carry plant pests and diseases, where the whole country or an area within the country are free from those pests or diseases. Moving from PZs to quarantine pests and PFAs will not change the requirements for goods moving within the UK.

There will be no new import or movement restrictions from the replacement of certain PZs with requirements for quarantine pests. These requirements are already in place now under the PZ system. The requirements for importing into and moving within PFAs will be the same as they currently are for the equivalent PZs.

If you are moving plants and plant products into or within UK PZs currently, you need to use an EU plant passport. You will need to use a UK plant passport if you’re moving the relevant plants and plant products into or within UK PFAs from 1 January 2021.

How to move goods into or within a UK Pest Free Area from 1 January 2021

Plants and plant products currently covered by EU plant passports for movements within the UK will need to be moved with a UK plant passport. When moving controlled plants in the UK, you’ll need to:

  • register with the relevant UK plant health authority
  • be authorised to issue plant passports
  • replace references to ‘EU’ with ‘GB’ when issuing plant passports

If you are an existing user of EU plant passports, you do not need to reissue a UK passport but you will need to change the title of your passport from ‘EU’ to ‘GB’.

The ‘GB’ code applies to the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland. This is because ‘GB’ is the internationally recognised code for the UK. Businesses in Scotland and Northern Ireland can choose to add ‘GB – S’ or ‘GB – NI’ to their plant passports.

If you’re providing a UK plant passport to move restricted plants into a UK PFA, you must include ‘PFA’ on the passport, rather than ‘ZP’ followed by the code for that PFA. Codes for PFAs will be the same as the codes for the PZs that they are replacing. For example, the code for ‘Ips Cembrae’ is IPSXCE.

Find details on Pest Free Areas and what plants must have passports (PDF, 271KB, 3 pages) to understand what to do from 1 January 2021.

Read Issuing plant passports to trade plants in the EU to understand how to apply for a UK plant passport.

Movement of wood packaging material

Wood packaging material (WPM) moving between the UK and the rest of the EU can currently move freely without checks or controls.

WPM includes:

  • pallets
  • crates
  • boxes
  • cable drums
  • spools
  • dunnage

From 1 January 2021 all WPM moving between the UK and the EU must meet ISPM15 international standards by undergoing heat treatment and marking. All WPM may be subject to official checks either upon or after entry to the EU.

Checks on WPM will continue to be carried out in the UK on a risk-targeted basis only. The plant health risk from WPM imported from the EU is not expected to change from 1 January 2021.

Steps to take now to prepare

Contact your supplier or TIMCON if you need more advice about moving WPM from 1 January 2021.

Trade agreements

Any new agreements will replicate existing EU agreements as far as possible. Where replacement trade agreements are not agreed, trade will take place on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms with that country. Details of each agreement will be shared with parliament and the public when they have been agreed.


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