In order to better protect the EU against the introduction of pests that are harmful to our agricultural, horticultural and forestry crops, and to the natural environment in general, Directive 2000/29/EC was replaced by Regulation (EU) 2016/2031. This regulation, applicable from 14 December 2019, introduces new and stricter rules for the trade in plants and plant products.
According to article 2 of Regulation (EU) 2016/2031 plants shall be considered as living plants and the following living parts of plants:
- seeds, in the botanical sense, intended for planting;
- fruits, in the botanical sense;
- tubers, corms, bulbs, rhizomes, roots, rootstocks, stolons;
- shoots, stems, runners;
- cut flowers;
- branches with or without foliage;
- cut trees retaining foliage;
- leaves, foliage;
- plant tissue cultures, including cell cultures, germplasm, meristems, chimaeric clones, micro-propagated material;
- live pollen and spores;
- buds, budwood, cuttings, scions, grafts.
Plant products means unmanufactured material of plant origin and those manufactured products that, by their nature or that of their processing, may create a risk of the spread of quarantine pests. Wood shall only be considered as a plant product if it fulfills one or more of the following criteria:
- it retains all or part of its natural round surface, with or without bark;
- it has not retained its natural round surface due to sawing, cutting or cleaving;
- it is in the form of chips, particles, sawdust, wood waste, shavings or scrap, and has not undergone processing involving the use of glue, heat or pressure or a combination thereof to produce pellet, briquettes, plywood or particle board;
- it is, or is intended to be, used as packaging material, whether or not it is actually in use for transport of goods.
Regulation (EU) 2017/625 on official controls and other official activities also became applicable, with the main application date being 14 December 2019. The scope of this new official controls regulation is extended to include plant health. This mainly has an impact on the working methods of the competent authorities and the organization of import controls (including the determination of inspection frequencies). This regulation also sets out rules for the establishment of European Reference Laboratories for plant health. In the meantime, for phytosanitary controls, a number of additional inspection frequencies have been laid down in Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/66.
Plants, plant products and other material listed in Annex XI (part A & B) and XII (protected zones) of Regulation 2019/2072 entering the EU must have a phytosanitary certificate guaranteeing that they are:
- properly inspected;
- free from quarantine pests, within the requirements for regulated non-quarantine pests and practically free from other pests;
- in line with the plant health requirements of the EU, laid down in Regulation (EU) 2019/2072.
The exporting country’s national plant protection authorities issues the certificates. Once in the EU, a plant passport may replace the phytosanitary certificate for imported plants, plant products and other objects which are also listed in annex XIII and XIV (protected zones) of Regulation 2019/2072.
No phytosanitary certificate is required for the import of five fruits: banana, pineapple, coconut, durian and dates (annex XI - part C of Regulation 2019/2072).
Annex VI of Regulation 2019/2072 lists the commodities whose introduction into the whole EU is prohibited, together with the third countries, groups of third countries or specific areas of third countries to which the prohibition applies. Annex IX of the abovementioned regulation lists the commodities whose introduction is forbidden in certain protected zones.
High risk commodities are temporary banned for import unless the national plant protection organization of a third country provides a technical dossier for carrying out a risk assessment (Regulation 2018/2019). The procedure to be followed in order to carry out the risk assessment is described in Regulation 2018/2018.
Wood packaging material shall only be introduced into the Union territory if it has been subject to the treatments set out in Annex 1 of the International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures N° 15 and has the mark referred to in Annex 2 of ISPM15 (art 43 of Regulation 2016/2031).
Regulation 2019/829 offers the possibility of importing, for research and selection purposes, harmful organisms, prohibited plants and plant products and/or plants and plant products which do not meet the import requirements, provided that strict conditions are fulfilled.
Some plant products (hay and straw) also have to fulfill veterinarian requirements. Only a limited number of countries are allowed to import these plant products into the European Union (Regulation n° 136/2004)
Concerning the passengers’ luggage: all regulated plants, plant products and other objects need a phytosanitary certificate to be entered in the EU, regardless of the amount or weight imported. Only the five fruits, banana, pineapple, coconut, durian and dates, can be introduced without a phytosanitary certificate.
Phytosanitary border control posts (BCP)
In Belgium, phytosanitary import controls are carried out at the phytosanitary border control posts. Relocation of the physical check to an approved inspection site is also possible under specific conditions.
From a technical customs point of view, the shipment can only be imported after the phytosanitary inspection has been completed with favorable result. This means that a shipment remains under customs supervision until the result of the phytosanitary inspection is known.
Inspections and decision
Operators responsible for the consignment shall give prior notification to the competent authorities of the border control post by completing and submitting the relevant part of the CHED-PP (Common Health Entry Document for Plants and Plant protection) into the IMSOC (Traces). This should be done prior to the physical arrival of the consignment into the Union (art. 56 of Regulation 2017/625).
A phytosanitary import control consists of a documentary, identity and physical check. Detailed rules concerning the performance of documentary checks, identity checks and physical checks at border control posts are laid down in Regulation 2019/2130.
Each consignment is subjected to a documentary check. For consignments of plants, plants products and other material, the documentary check can be performed at distance from a control border post (chapter 2 of Regulation 2019/2123). During the documentary check, the competent authority inspects the official (phytosanitary) certificates, official attestations and other documents accompanying the consignment. The FAFSC verifies, among others, if the phytosanitary certificate is issued by the competent authority of the third country, if the certificate fulfils the requirements set out in ISPM 12 and mentions the correct additional declaration.
During the identity check, it is verified whether the content of the consignment corresponds to the information on the phytosanitary certificate and other official attestations, for instance: the quantity and variety of plants, appropriate stamps, identification of the means of transport.
During the physical check, it is verified, based on a visual examination and in certain cases analysis of samples, whether the plants or plant products are free from pests and whether they meet the specific requirements of Regulation 2019/2072.
Physical checks on plants, plant products and other objects are carried out in accordance with the requirements set out in Annex III of Regulation 2019/2123.
To ensure an efficient performance of official controls and a proper control of risks, the competent authorities of the border control post may perform identity and physical checks on consignments of plants, plant products and other at a control point other than the border control post, under certain conditions described in chapter 1 of Regulation 2019/2123.
If the result of the checks/inspections (documents, identity, physcial) is favorable, the consignment is released. The FASFC will finalise the CHED-PP. This document can be presented to the customs as proof of the favorable plant health check and release.
The consignment may also be refused due to the following reasons:
- The presence of pests;
- The lack of the original phytosanitary certificate;
- The phytosanitary certificate does not meet the requirements;
- The identity of the consignment does not correspond to the phytosanitary certificate (the composition of the consignment, the plant varieties and their number do not correspond to the description given on the certificate).
If (symptoms of) pests are detected, a sample is taken and sent to an approved laboratory. The laboratory will identify the pest, if present. The FASFC will then decide which measures need to be taken.
The recipient is officially informed by the FASFC about the reason of refusal and the measures to be taken.Following measures may be taken: destruction or transport outside the EU borders. In the latter case, the shipment may be transported to another country which has other requirements than the EU. The shipment must meet the conditions of that country. Special treatment obliged by the FASFC is also possible.