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Importing plants and plant products: what you need to know

This page is part of the Guidance Document Repository (GDR).

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Protecting Canada's plant resources

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is Canada's national plant protection organization. The CFIA is entrusted with this responsibility as part of its overall mandate to protect Canada's food, plant and animal resources.

Plant pests can cause damage that is costly and extensive for Canada. Plant pests can be insects, other plants, or micro-organisms.

The most effective way to deal with plant or plant product pests is to prevent their entry into Canada. This requires a collaborative effort between the CFIA, domestic importers, foreign exporter communities, and our international partners. However, once a pest is present in Canada, the CFIA's goal is to reduce its impact.

The CFIA regulates the import of plants and plant products under several different acts, including the Plant Protection Act and Regulations, and the relevant sections of the Seeds Act and Regulations.

What importers need to know

As an importer, it is your responsibility to know the specific import requirements for the product you are bringing into Canada, which includes any materials used for transporting or packaging the product (for example, dunnage or wooden crates). In some cases, this may include requirements under more than one act and/or regulation.

You must ensure that your shipment meets all applicable import requirements when it arrives at the Canadian border.

Each product is governed by specific import requirements.

The CFIA's Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) is a searchable database on the Agency's website that you can use to view the import requirements that apply to the plant or plant product you want to import.

More information about regulations and policies regarding import requirements is posted on the CFIA website in the form of Plant Protection Policy Directives.

You can also get this information by contacting the CFIA offices by phone or by postal mail.

Requesting import permits online

Permits to import plants and plant products regulated under the Plant Protection Act can be requested through the Agency's online service portal, My CFIA. By signing up for a My CFIA account, you can submit a new service request, track the status of your application and pay for the service online.

If you do not have access to My CFIA, a completed application can also be faxed or mailed to CFIA, Centre of Administration (CoA).

Pest risk assessment

When an importer wants to import a product that either has no previous history of being imported into Canada, or a previously imported product from a new origin, the CFIA conducts a pest risk assessment.

The purpose of the assessment is to determine if a commodity could be carrying pests, diseases or weeds that could establish in Canada and cause losses affecting farmers or foresters, or cause environmental change. This will determine whether or not phytosanitary control measures are required.

When the CFIA identifies a new pest of concern for Canada through the pest risk assessment, it updates its list of Pests Regulated by Canada, which is published on the Agency's website.

Common pitfalls for importers

If a product does not meet the applicable import requirements, it is considered to be "non-compliant." As an importer, some questions for you to consider are the following:

How CFIA responds to issues of non-compliance

The CFIA's authority to address non-compliance comes from the Plant Protection Act and Regulations, and the Seeds Act and Regulations as they relate to plant protection.

Measures the CFIA can use to mitigate the risk of a non-compliant shipment include the following:

Where a shipment is inspected and determined to be non-compliant despite certification from the exporting country's national plant protection organization, the CFIA will send a Notification of Non-Compliance to the foreign national plant protection organization, so that it may take the appropriate corrective actions on certifying future shipments. This step is in addition to the mitigation approaches noted above.

As the importer, you are responsible for all costs associated with bringing a shipment into compliance. If you do not achieve compliance, the shipment may be forfeited to the Government of Canada and disposed of.

Why CFIA regulates plants and plant product imports

Plant pests can affect crops across the country. This

As invasive species, they can wreak havoc on our ecosystems by destroying native species and causing unalterable damage to the Canadian landscape. For example, the emerald ash borer, native to Asia, has killed millions of ash trees across North America since it arrived in 2004, and will likely kill millions more. It probably entered Canada and the United States on untreated wood packaging materials, such as pallets or boxes.

Plant pests can be introduced through various pathways, including

The CFIA establishes import requirements by considering the following:

Key importation issues for the CFIA include:

Specific commodities that have import control measures in place include

Importing prohibited plants or plant products

Under the Plant Protection Regulations, you may import prohibited plants or plant products into Canada

The CFIA will issue such a permit only once it has confirmed that the importer is able to comply with the containment conditions, and that other conditions, established by the CFIA to allow the import of the prohibited product, are met.

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