Starting to export agri-food and drink to outside the EU?

Starting to export agri-food & drink to outside the EU? This guide will explain how to navigate your way through the paperwork.

Click here to download the PDF version of this guide.

This guide aims to:
1. Show you where to seek advice if you are starting to export agri-food and drink outside the EU.
2. Give you an outline of the steps you might need to take and the paperwork you may need to acquire and why.

We would be grateful for feedback on how we can improve this guide, please email with your comments.

Step 1 | HMRC guidance

    1. Where to Start

Step one is to go to This quick guide is drafted by HM Revenue & Customs and Border Force.

    2. Why are HMRC interested in your goods?

HMRC are interested in your goods for a variety of reasons including to collect trade data and to enforce export prohibitions.

    3. How this HMRC web guidance will help you

These pages explain that different rules apply to exports going to different destinations and that you can use a commercial agent or freight forwarder if you don’t want to deal with some procedures yourself. Links on these pages take you to some crucial advice on your responsibilities such as to submit an export declaration through the National Export System (NES) and how to do this including classifying goods using the UK integrated trade tariff

    4. Where to seek further advice on classifying goods

You can also call the Tariff Classification Service (TCS) for advice on classification issues, they will provide advice on up to three items per call, for more details (including a phone number) go to:

A more detailed HMRC guide can be found at:

Step 2 | Speak to your importer

    5. Speak to your importer to establish the import requirements for your consignments

Requirements vary depending on the preferences of the country you are exporting to (for example some destination countries will levy custom duties and taxes). Consignments that do not meet a country’s import rules could be refused entry and be returned or destroyed. Check early, and before each consignment as requirements can change.

Some destinations (e.g. South Africa) may require an importer to apply for an import permit that will specify details of consignments and requirements on arrival. Some countries may require very specific supporting certification such as Halal certification.

Step 3 | Seek advice from UKTI and importing authorities

    6. Where possible supplement advice from importers with advice from importing authorities in the destination country

Contacting the UK Embassy in the destination country at is one way of getting in touch with the import authorities, you could also go through your importer.

    7. Speak to UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)

Find out about UKTI’s services and help for UK companies looking to export here:

You can also find contact details for UKTI offices around the world here:

Go to for country-specific guides

Step 4 More online advice

    8. Advice from the European Commission

The EU Market Access Database
provides information to companies exporting from the EU about import conditions in non EU markets as well as statistics on trade flow.

    9. Advice from other exporters

A bespoke source of information and support can be found at: Join the food and drink community and get your exporting questions answered by other UK exporters.

Step 5 | Certification common to animals, plants & their products

    10. Certification

You will have already established the import requirements of the destination country, this guide will now tell you where to go to get most of the necessary paperwork, starting with certification that may be required for both animals and animal products and plants and plant products.

    11. Certificate of Free Sale

If you export food or drink to non-EU countries, you may need a Certificate of Free Sale. This shows that the product can be sold within UK. The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) provide these (e.g. for alcohol for human consumption) free of charge; for more information and an application form please go to:

    12. Licenses related to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

The RPA also covers the licences required to export certain agri-products and commodities covered by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). More information can be found here

    13. Endangered animals and plants

The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) issues permits for UK exports of endangered animals and plants (and products thereof) go to for more information.

Step 6: Certification specific to animals or plants (and their products)

Please go to section 7a if you are exporting animals or animal products

Please go to section 7b if you are exporting Plants or plant products

Step 7 a: Animal & animal product certification

    14. Defining animals and animal products

This includes: live animals, meat and dairy (often including composite products such as pies and pizzas), cheese, lactose, whey, livestock, birds, reptiles, pet food, hides, taxidermy, fish and germplasm (e.g. porcine semen). This excludes bees: The National Bee Unit (NBU) has responsibility for the issue of any export certificates for bees, for more information go to:

    15. Export Health Certificates

The destination country will usually require guarantees that an animal or animal product complies with their public and animal health rules. The means of assurance usually used is the Export Health Certificate (EHC). This document, which accompanies the goods, is usually signed by an Official Veterinarian (OV) or other official (the notes for guidance which accompany the EHC will state who this should be e.g. local authority inspector) and makes various assurances reflecting the requirements of the importing country at the time of agreement.

    16. How to find out whether an EHC is available for your consignment

A list of EHCs currently available to apply for can be found at:

Specimen EHCs for cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and camelids and their genetics and meat etc. are available to view at:

Exporters in Great Britain can also contact the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Centre for International trade in Carlisle and exporters in Northern Ireland can also contact the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) to check if an EHC is available and obtain a specimen copy to check the conditions set out in it are still valid and that they can be met.

    17. Contact details and where to find more information

More information can be found at: – and the APHA Centre for International Trade can be reached by Telephone: 01228 403600, Fax: 01228 591900 or email:

DARD can be found at: For exports from the Isle of Man go to:, for Jersey: and for Guernsey:

    18. How to get an EHC issued

These same organisations also issue EHCs, so you will need to contact them when you come to apply formally, which may involve completing an application form so factor in enough time and consult the relevant contact number for advice.

    19. Employing an OV

You will need to employ the services of a suitably authorised OV (or other official where this option is available) to confirm that all requirements of the EHC are met. In GB if your veterinary practice does not have an OV with the correct authorisation you can contact The OV appointments and training team on 01905 768 725 or

    20. Why an EHC may not be available

If an EHC is not currently available, this could be for a variety of reasons, it is possible that no one has ever tried to export there before so no EHC has ever been negotiated with the destination country or it could be that the destination country does not permit the export of that commodity to their country. In either case the time involved for agreeing an EHC can be very long (running into years). Opening markets is prioritised through Defra -industry engagement groups where industry interests are represented by trade associations, so join one to be a part of this process.

    21. Importing countries may change the conditions on which a current EHC is based without notifying Defra

It is your responsibility to check that EHC matches any import license/permit you have obtained.
You should check our topical issues page for current issues relating to imports and exports of animals and animal products:
You can also follow the Animal and Plant Health Agency on Twitter for the latest news and information:

    22. Further guidance for live animals and fish

Guidance on animal welfare in transit can be found at:
For guidance on exporting live aquatic animals from England and Wales visit from Scotland: and from Northern Ireland:

Step 7 b: Plant and plant product certification

    23. Defining plants and plant products

This includes grain, bulbs, oils, derivatives, cut flowers, fruit, vegetables, seeds, soil and agricultural machinery (i.e. contamination risk), and processed plants (e.g. flour, tea and wine), if required.

    24. Plant Health Certificates

Exports of certain plants may be prohibited by the importing country but where exports are permitted, most countries outside the EU require that consignments must be accompanied by a ‘phytosanitary’ or plant health certificate issued by the plant health authority in the exporting country. A phytosanitary certificate provides assurances that consignments meet the plant health standards specified by the importing country e.g. free from pests. In most cases, depending on the requirements of the importing country, phytosanitary certificates can only be issued following satisfactory official inspection of the material for export. In some circumstances it may also be necessary for samples to be examined by an official laboratory.

    25. Contacts

In England and Wales you will need to contact The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Follow this link to the exports form section: to download application forms for certification etc. and explanatory guides.
The Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate covers Scotland follow this link to find out more:

In Northern Ireland you will need to contact the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), go to for more details.

Sectors: Food & Drink
Countries: Africa, Asia Pacific, Central America, Central Asia, Far East, Middle East, Oceania, South America, and South Asia
Export Action Plan