Steps to importing

To import grains, seeds, or nuts for processing for human consumption, 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 grains, seeds, and nuts from start to finish.

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What this import process covers

This process covers grains, seeds, and nuts imported for processing into food for humans.

If your grain, seed, or nut products are already processed, follow the import process for processed food from plants.

If you intend to germinate seeds, follow the import process for seeds for sowing.

If your product contains any other ingredient, such as egg, meat, dairy, or seafood, you need to also comply with the import process for each ingredient.

To import grains, seeds, and nuts successfully you need to know about:

Biosecurity requirements
  • ensuring your product is covered by an import health standard (IHS)
  • complying with the requirements of the IHS
  • complying with the Grain Import System (GIS) requirements, if required
  • permits, if needed
  • arranging phytosanitary and treatment certificates and declarations, if needed
  • booking a transitional facility, if required.
New Zealand Customs Service requirements
  • product prohibitions and restrictions
  • tariffs and permits
  • using a customs broker.
Meet 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
  • foods classed of "high regulatory interest" and "increased regulatory interest" (these will require food safety clearance)
  • how to get food safety clearance
  • 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:

Are you using wood packaging?

If your consignment is shipped to New Zealand on wooden pallets, or wood has been used to package any part of your consignment, you'll also need to comply with the requirements for importing wood packaging.

Exported goods returning to New Zealand

All exporters are legally obliged to notify MPI if their export goods are being returned to New Zealand – for example, if a consignment has been rejected by an importing country.

Who to contact

If you have any questions about importing grains, seeds, or nuts, email info@mpi.govt.nz.

Step2

What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

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Identify what you're importing

You need to know the name of your plant (common or scientific name), whether it has the potential to germinate (is viable), and its intended end use.

Check other agencies' import restrictions

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

  • you can import the product without restriction
  • the product will be subject to duties or tariffs
  • a NZ Customs permit is needed.

Visit the NZ Customs website to:

Some plant products are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and cannot be transported between countries, or can only be imported with a permit.

Visit the Ministry of Health's website to find out about the requirements for importing controlled drugs and industrial hemp.

Restricted plant species are Papaver somniferum (poppy seed), Cannabis sativa (hemp), and Salvia species.

Consider using a customs broker

A customs broker will help you get import entry clearance. Some services provided by NZ 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.

Comply with import health standard (IHS) requirements

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

Find the import health standard for your product

The import health standards (IHS) tell you what you need to do to import your product into New Zealand. There are 2 import health standards for importing grains, seeds, and nuts. Check each IHS to find out which one covers your products.

Read the IHS for your product thoroughly to make sure you can meet all of the requirements.

IHS BNZ-NPP-Human

Most plant-based food products are covered by the IHS BNZ-NPP-Human, including all nuts, and some grains and seeds. Biosecurity requirements are listed by a commodity's common name. Depending on the commodity, sometimes you may be referred to another IHS.

Download IHS 'Importation into New Zealand of Stored Plant Products Intended for Human Consumption BNZ-NPP-Human' [PDF, 430 KB]

IHS BNZ-GCFP-PHR

If your product isn't listed in the BNZ-NPP-Human IHS, check the list of species in Section 3 of the IHS for grain and seeds for all end uses – IHS BNZ-GCFP-PHR.

Download IHS 'BNZ.GCFP.PHR Importation of Grains/Seeds for Consumption, Feed, or Processing' [PDF, 1 MB]

Products not listed in the IHS

If your product isn't listed, you can search for the IHS for your product. Or it may be possible to import your commodity under the IHS for seeds for sowing.

Options when your product isn't included in an IHS

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

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

MPI prioritises requests for each new IHS, and it may take several years to finalise your request.

Decide when to have your product inspected

Depending on the IHS requirements for your commodity, there may be more than one option for when your product has inspections – at the border or at a transitional facility. If you're unsure which is the best option to follow, ask your customs broker or email plantimports@mpi.govt.nz.

Comply with the Grain Importing System (GIS), if required

The IHS for your product will tell you whether you need to comply with extra biosecurity requirements set out in the GIS (Grain Importing System). If needed, you'll have to provide a written plan for MPI that details how you will handle, store, and process the imported grain. You'll have to submit this to MPI and apply for accreditation to get approval to import your product.

To find out more about GIS requirements and how to submit a plan, read the operating standard 'PIT-GFP-ISR Grain for Processing Import System Requirements'.

Download 'PIT-GFP-ISR Grain for Processing Import System Requirements' [PDF, 670 KB]

Meet phytosanitary requirements, if required

You may need to apply for a phytosanitary certificate, which is issued in the exporting country. Additional declarations may also be required for your product.

To meet the requirements you may need to complete some or all of the following tasks before shipping:

  • arrange pre-shipment inspection for detectable weed seed or pests, and arrange fumigation or other treatments, if necessary
  • arrange testing, if importing viable seed
  • get the manufacturer's information, if required (it can help to have documentation that identifies the commercial processes used on your product)
  • use approved packaging and shipping materials that are free of soil or other contaminants
  • label the consignment with its scientific (genus and species) name
  • meet any extra requirements listed in the IHS.

If you're using wood packaging, make sure it meets the phytosanitary requirements as well.

Apply for a phytosanitary certificate, if needed

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 export country. You can find the contact details on the International Plants Protection Convention (IPPC) website.

A phytosanitary certificate is issued once the contact-point NPPO is satisfied that the IHS requirements have been met.

The original phytosanitary certificate must be included with your consignment.

Not sure what to do?

If you have questions about phytosanitary certificates, contact the export agent or your contact-point agent.

Test for genetically modified (GM) seed, if required

If the IHS requires GM testing for your seed species, you'll need to have it tested before it arrives in New Zealand, and the certificate must accompany your consignment.

Get a seed analysis and certification, if required

If your consignment is accompanied by a seed analysis certificate (SAC), a smaller sample may be required for testing. This can result in faster clearance of your consignment at the border.

If you decide to get a SAC, then you need to have your seed analysed either by an MPI-approved or accredited testing station like the International Seed Testing Association or Association of Official Seed Analysts. Ask your seed supplier about the options for seed analysis.

Apply for an import permit, if required

The IHS will tell you whether an import permit is needed for your food product. If required, apply for a permit by completing the application form and returning it to MPI. Fees apply.

Download the form to apply for an import permit [PDF, 219 KB]

Arrange a transitional facility, if required

MPI approves transitional facilities to hold and manage imported goods that might have a biosecurity risk. These goods may need to be inspected or treated at the transitional facility before they can be cleared by MPI.

All sea containers arriving in New Zealand need to be taken to a transitional facility and unpacked there.

You or your customs broker need to arrange for your container to be transferred to a transitional facility, before your goods arrive in New Zealand.

Check packaging and labelling requirements

Packaging must be secure so that pests can't get inside, and must be clean and free from soil or other contaminants. If you're 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.

Correct labelling will help ensure that your consignment can be quickly identified and processed by border clearance staff when it arrives in New Zealand. If your product is pre-packaged, the IHS may require the volume of packages to be clearly displayed.

Submit all required documentation

You or your customs broker need to make sure that all of the necessary documentation is submitted to NZ Customs or MPI in the 48 hours before the consignment arrives in New Zealand.

Note that if you are operating under a GIS, your documentation must be received at least 5 days before the consignment arrives in New Zealand.

If required by the IHS, documentation may include:

  • a copy of the phytosanitary certificate (the original should be with your consignment)
  • the manufacturer's certificate
  • treatment certificates
  • the purchase invoice
  • a bill of lading
  • a sea freight container declaration or air waybill.

Comply with on-arrival inspections, if required

Your documentation will be checked, and an MPI inspector may examine the consignment when it arrives in New Zealand to make sure it complies with the IHS. The inspector may check that:

  • the consignment is as described
  • the correct labelling is used, if required
  • the consignment and packaging are free of contaminants (detritus, soil, disease, and pests).

The MPI quarantine inspector may issue a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) requiring:

  • documentation to be corrected
  • the consignment to be treated
  • weed seed to be removed
  • the consignment to be moved to a transitional facility, to be held for inspection
  • the consignment to be moved to a post-entry quarantine (PEQ) facility, for quarantine.

The inspection process and information about pest or weed contamination are detailed in the IHS.

If your consignment doesn't comply when it arrives

If your consignment doesn't comply with IHS requirements on arrival, or it's found to be seriously contaminated (such as with live organisms) you may need to:

  • treat your product (for example, by fumigation or weed seed removal)
  • identify the organism (and treat it if it's a restricted pest)
  • ship the product to another destination country
  • destroy the product.

All treatments have to be done at a transitional facility by an approved treatment provider. You're liable for any costs associated with non-compliance or contamination.

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

Download the list of MPI-approved pest identification services [PDF, 100 KB]

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 New Zealand Customs Service (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 NZ 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

Check if your product requires food safety clearance

MPI must check the safety of "foods of regulatory interest" before they can be imported and sold. These are types of foods that have made people sick in the past, or may make people sick. Customs or your customs broker will tell you if a food safety clearance is required.

Grains, seeds and nuts of regulatory interest

  • Peanuts and pistachio nuts, and their products (including peanut butter)
  • Tahini and crushed sesame seeds, and any products containing them.

If, after checking, they're shown to be safe, you'll be given a food safety clearance and the food can be imported.

Grains, seeds and nuts from Australia

You can import any grains, seeds, nuts (and their products, such as peanut butter) from Australia without a food safety clearance.

Learn more about foods of regulatory interest in the Importing Food Notice [PDF, 249 KB]

If your grains, seeds, or nuts products don't need food safety clearance, go to Step 3 – Getting your import documentation.

Getting food safety clearance

If you're importing grains, seeds, nuts that requires food safety clearance, you may be asked to demonstrate their safety one of 3 ways:

  1. NZ Importer Assurance: A registered food importer that's verified by MPI can be issued with a NZ Importer Assurance (previously known as a Multiple Release Permit).
  2. Official certificate: For some countries, MPI will accept official certificates (from the appropriate government agency) as assurance the food is safe.
  3. Sampling and testing: In some cases, food will have to be sampled and tested. MPI will tell you if this is required.

Learn more about official certificates in Importing Food into New Zealand. [PDF, 201 KB]

How to apply

You can request food safety clearance using the Trade Single Window or by filling out a food safety clearance application form.

Trade single window

Follow the instructions on the Trade Single Window (TSW) website. You'll need to log in using the RealMe login service, and then register as a TSW user.

Food Safety Clearance Application

Download and complete an application form. Follow the instructions for guidance.

When complete, email the form to imported.food@mpi.govt.nz.

Your application should include:
  • an invoice for the consignment
  • the bill of lading or airway bill.

If the food being imported requires an official certificate, you should also include that with your application.

When inspection, sampling or testing is required

MPI will tell you if the food you're importing needs to be inspected, sampled or tested. If that happens, MPI will sample the product and send samples to your choice of MPI-approved laboratory. You'll need to pay the sampling, transport and testing costs – and share the test results with MPI.

Find out more

MPI's Central Clearing House can also answer questions:

Step3

Getting your import documentation

How you know you've met MPI requirements.

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All imported plant products need biosecurity clearance. Some may also require a food safety clearance.

Biosecurity clearance

If a biosecurity inspector is satisfied that your products comply with the import health standard (IHS), clearance will be issued soon after your goods arrive.

If you were issued with a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) by an MPI quarantine inspector, you may need it for clearance by other agencies.

If your products don't comply with an IHS, your goods may not be cleared. However, you may be given the chance to provide further documentation or treatment for your product. Each compliance issue is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Food safety clearance

A Food Safety Officer (FSO) will assess your application against the requirements of the Food Act. You'll be notified of the outcome through the Trade Single Window system or directly by MPI.

Clearance may be given 'without direction,' which means you're free to move and sell the product within New Zealand. If the food requires inspection or sampling, or it's not safe and suitable for people to eat then you'll receive clearance with direction. Directions given may include reprocessing the food, re-exporting it, or destroying it.

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.

Who to contact

If you have questions about:

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