Steps to importing

To import fresh produce (including fruit, vegetables, herbs and fungi) you must either be registered as a food importer with MPI, or use a registered food importer. There are also other standards and requirements. We've created a step-by-step process to explain what's involved.


Follow the steps

Step1

What you need to know

An overview of importing fresh fruit and vegetables from start to finish.

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Types of produce included in this import process

This import process is for fresh fruit, vegetables, fungi, and herbs that are unprocessed (that is, no more than washed). However, some commercial brands of fruit and vegetables that have had limited processing are considered fresh and referred to as 'approved processed commodities'.

If your produce has been processed before packing then it will have different import requirements to meet – unless it is on the list of approved processed commodities.

Processing may include:

  • stripping or peeling
  • heating (blanching, steaming, boiling, roasting, baking, drying)
  • preserving (pickling) or blast freezing.

To import fresh fruit and vegetables successfully you need to know about:

  • New Zealand Customs Service (Customs) requirements and import clearance procedures
  • the biosecurity requirements and restrictions that apply
  • Food Act requirements
  • food importer registration
  • general requirements of registered food importers – sourcing and keeping food safe and suitable, records, and recalls
  • the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, including labelling, composition and restricted foods
  • fees and charges that apply for services provided by MPI and other agencies.
Guides to help you
Additional requirements

Organic food, irradiated food, genetically modified food, and supplemented foods have additional requirements besides the Food Act. Learn more:

 

Step2

What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

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Meet biosecurity requirements 

You'll need to understand and comply with the biosecurity requirements for your product.

Find the import health standard (IHS) for your product

Biosecurity requirements are detailed in documents called import health standards (IHS). The IHS for your product will tell you what you need to do to import it. 

Most fresh produce is covered under the IHS for importing fresh fruit and vegetables.

Download the IHS for importing fresh fruit and vegetables [PDF, 1.5 MB]

The importation of fresh truffles for consumption is covered by the IHS: Truffles for Consumption: IHS.FP.TRUFFLES.

You will also need to complete a permit to import application for this product.

Download the IHS for truffles for consumption [PDF, 434 KB]

Download the permit to import application [PDF, 199 KB]

If your plant species isn't listed in that IHS, search for another one.

If there's no IHS for your product, you can’t import it. However, you can ask MPI to consider developing one.

To make a request, use a separate form for each commodity and email or post the form with any additional information to MPI.

MPI sets priorities for developing new import health standards, and it may take some years to finalise your request.

Meet New Zealand Customs Service requirements

Check with the New Zealand Customs Service (Customs) whether:

  • you can import the product without restriction
  • the product will be subject to duties or tariffs
  • a Customs permit is needed (such as for health products).

Visit the Customs website to:

Consider using a customs broker

A customs broker will help you get import entry clearance. Some services provided by Customs can only be accessed by registered customs brokers.

Many freight and transport companies employ their own brokers but if you need help finding one, contact the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation.

Meet Food Act requirements

Registered food importers

All food coming into New Zealand must be imported by a registered food importer. If you want to import food, you can:

  • use a registered food importer, such as an agent
  • register as a food importer (available to New Zealand residents only).
Becoming a registered food importer

You can request to be a food importer when completing your Customs client registration application. Tick 'Yes' when asked if you wish to be a food importer.

When you have completed your form you can:

If you need help, phone Customs on 0800 42 87 86.

Transition from listed food importer to registered food importer

If you were a listed food importer with MPI before 1 March 2016, you are considered to be a registered food importer until at least 1 July 2016. You'll need to re-apply after 1 July 2016 to continue to be a registered food importer. To find out when you need to register by:
  • Check your Letter of Listing to find out what day and month you became a listed food importer. It doesn't matter what year.
  • Find the corresponding day and month between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2017.
That is the date by which you must register as a food importer. If you can't find out the day and month you became a listed food importer, email approvals@mpi.co.nz.

Comply with regulations and standards

All food businesses must comply with the Food Act 2014, Food Regulations 2015 and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. For example, food sold in retail shops must have labels in English, with a New Zealand distributor's name and address.

As a registered food importer you must also comply with regulations about sourcing foods that are safe and suitable, storing and transporting those foods, and keeping records.

Find out more

Meet phytosanitary requirements

All produce covered by the IHS requires a phytosanitary certificate, which is issued in the country of production (the exporting country).

Phytosanitary certificate requirements vary and are listed by country in Appendix 1 of the fresh fruit and vegetables IHS, or will be listed in the relevant IHS for the species you're importing. Additional declarations may be required for your plant species.

To meet the requirements you may need to complete some or all of the following tasks before your products are shipped:

  • source produce from a pest-free area or country
  • have the produce inspected for pests and diseases, and arrange fumigation or other treatments, if needed
  • use approved packaging and shipping materials that are free of soil or other contaminants
  • identify the consignment with its scientific (genus and species) name
  • meet any extra requirements listed in the IHS.

Once you have met the requirements, you can apply for a phytosanitary certificate.

Apply for a phytosanitary certificate

To apply for a certificate, you or your export supplier should contact the relevant National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO, an equivalent agency to MPI) in the country of export. You can find the contact details on the International Plants Protection Convention (IPPC) website.

A phytosanitary certificate is issued once the contact point agent is satisfied that the requirements of the IHS have been met. The original phytosanitary certificate must be included with your consignment.

Not sure what to do?

For queries about phytosanitary certificates, contact the export broker or your NPPO contact point.

Meet packaging requirements

Packaging must be clean and free from soil or other contaminants. If you are using wood products other than paper to pack your consignment, there are extra conditions to meet to make sure there are no hidden pests or diseases.

Submit documents within 48 hours of arrival

You or your customs broker need to make sure that all of the required documents are submitted to Customs or MPI within 48 hours of the consignment arriving in New Zealand.

A copy of the phytosanitary certificate must be included. Other documentation may include:

  • treatment certificates
  • a purchase invoice
  • the bill of lading or air waybill.

Comply with on-arrival inspections

An MPI inspector will check the consignment when it arrives in New Zealand to make sure it complies with the IHS. This includes checks for:

  • visual signs of pests and diseases
  • correct documentation (phytosanitary certificate and import permit, if required)
  • correct labelling with the plant's scientific name (species and genus)
  • packaging that is free of contaminants (detritus, soil, disease, or pests).

The MPI inspector issues a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) to identify any actions required for a consignment. These may include:

  • documents needing to be corrected
  • further treatments.

What to do with contamination

If contamination (like live organisms or soil) is found in your produce, the MPI inspector will inform you about the options for your consignment. Depending on the type of contamination, you may choose to:

  • identify the organism, and treat if it's identified as a restricted pest
  • treat the container or consignment (for example, by fumigation)
  • re-ship the product to another destination
  • destroy the product.

Find an MPI-approved pest identification service [PDF, 100 KB]

Arranging treatments or testing, if needed

If your produce or packaging has to be treated when it arrives in New Zealand, then this needs to be done by an approved treatment provider.

You are liable for any cost associated with non-compliance or contamination.

Search for an approved treatment provider [PDF, 129 KB]

Learn more about approved biosecurity treatments [PDF, 488 KB]

 

Step3

Getting your import documentation

How you know you've met MPI requirements.

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Check that you or your customs broker have completed the following pre-shipment and on-arrival tasks:

Pre-shipment
  • Ensure the IHS requirements are met (for example, pest and disease inspections, treatments, labelling)
  • Apply for a phytosanitary certificate from the National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) in the country of export
  • Check your packaging material is approved
  • Include the original phytosanitary certificate with the consignment
  • Submit documents to the New Zealand Customs Service and MPI within 48 hours of the consignment arriving in New Zealand.
On arrival
  • Supply correct documents, including a phytosanitary certificate
  • Comply with treatment requirements (fumigation or devitalisation)
  • Comply with any treatments or disposal specified in the Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC).

Once all requirements have been met, MPI will issue a BACC confirming that your consignment has been cleared.

Importer responsibilities and alerts

Food can't be sold that is unsafe, unfit for human consumption, or contaminated. It's your responsibility as an importer to ensure that all legal requirements are met.

Food importers should regularly check any alerts issued for food recalled overseas, and for developing risks.

Be vigilant

Importers are among the most important people in defending against potential biosecurity dangers.

New pests and diseases can not only impact on human health but also damage agricultural or horticultural production, forestry, and tourism, and affect trade in international markets.

If you notice an organism that is not normally seen in New Zealand, contact MPI as soon as possible on 0800 80 99 66.

Who to contact

If you have any questions about importing fresh food and vegetables, email info@mpi.govt.nz.

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