Import requirements for soil on imported plants (other than potatoes)

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This document is intended to clearly explain the Canadian import requirements for soil that may be associated with imported plants intended for planting, as a resource for anyone involved in importing plants to Canada. Fully understanding these requirements helps everyone protect Canada and minimizes problems with non-compliant shipments (that is, shipments that do not meet regulatory requirements).

Note:

This document is only about the requirements for soil on imported plants. There are also requirements for the plants themselves.

Please see also:

Questions and answers - CFIA's import requirements for soil on plants intended for planting

Importing plants and plant products: what you need to know

An Importer's Guide to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Inspections

Directive D-98-01, for requirements for potato (Solanum tuberosum) material intended for planting

Directive D-08-04, for general import requirements for plants for planting

A wide range and large volume of plants (and plant parts) intended for planting are imported into Canada from all over the world. These plants could have soil on them. Soil can contain serious plant pests, including several that are regulated by Canada as prohibited quarantine pests. Even very small amounts of soil can contain microscopic pests. Pests that can be found in soil include molluscs, insects, nematodes, fungi, bacteria and viruses.

Soil on imported plants can be introduced into the environment, where pests can multiply and spread, endangering the Canadian economy and environment. Because of this, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) strictly regulates the importation of plants intended for planting to ensure that they are free of soil-borne quarantine plant pests.

Note:

Throughout this document, the term "soil" also includes soil-related matter, such as compost, muck and earthworm castings, as well as soil-free growing media other than that imported under the Canadian Growing Media Program

See the Plant Health Glossary of Terms for definitions of the terms used in this document.

Plants from areas other than the continental United States

You cannot import soil from areas other than the continental United States. All plants and plant parts intended for planting that are imported into Canada must be entirely free from soil. At most, the plants can have a fine film of dust, such as what might be left by dirty wash water. If any thicker films, patches or clumps of soil are found during the import inspection in Canada, the plants are considered non-compliant.

You can help avoid incidents of non-compliance by ensuring that your foreign suppliers are fully informed of Canadian import requirements. When preparing a lot for shipment to Canada, suppliers should ensure that plants are thoroughly cleaned of all soil before they are shipped. They should pay particular attention to:

  • cleaning roots that can more easily trap soil, such as mats of fine rootlets, closely packed roots, crevices, branching points, etc.; and
  • types of soil that may be more difficult to clean, such as clays.

For information on how non-compliant material is managed, please see An Importer's Guide to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Inspections.

Plants from the continental United States

You can import plants with soil from most parts of the continental United States, as long as they are accompanied by a Phytosanitary Certificate stating that they are free of certain quarantine soil-borne pests regulated by Canada.

For some plant species, you must obtain a Permit to Import from the CFIA. On the permit application form, you must indicate whether the plants are being imported with or without soil. Under a permit for plants without soil, the plants must be entirely free from soil. If any films, patches or clumps of soil are found during the import inspection in Canada, the plants are considered non-compliant.

If the plants are treated to remove most soil – for example, shaken to facilitate shipping – but are not cleaned expressly to remove all soil, the CFIA will not consider the plants free from soil. These plants should not be imported under a permit for plants without soil. If there is a chance that even small amounts of soil could be left on the plants, it may be safer to include both plants with and without soil on your permit application. There is no additional fee for including both types of material on the permit.

Please contact the CFIA at any time if you have questions about the CFIA's import requirements.

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