If you’re importing organic goods from outside the EU, you need certification under the Processor Scheme, and your business will be inspected as part of the organic certification process. We get a lot of requests for advice on this, so we’ve put together a guide with the help of OF&G.
Suppliers and Control Bodies
The first step in the certification process is to identify the suppliers of the organic products you want to import and trade, and get hold of their organic certificates and trading schedules. Organic products imported from outside the EU must be organically certified by a control body recognised as operating to equivalent standards as those in the EU. A simple Google search (“organic control bodies [country]”) will pull up a list of control bodies in the country you’re operating in. Or you can submit your suppliers’ certificates to OF&G, and they’ll check the control body is certified to EU standards and that the certificate meets the organic regulations. An EC certificate of inspection must be available for every consignment to be imported in to the UK. The EC certificate of inspection is supplied by the organic control body certifying the supplier or exporter in the country of origin. If you’re importing, make sure you ask for an EC certificate of inspection from your supplier when you place an order.
Point of Entry
The original EC certificate of inspection must be presented to the relevant authorities, e.g. the duty officer at the port, for endorsement before the product can be released. They won’t sign a copy. The original EC certificate of inspection can be sent to your shipping agent or freight forwarder for them to present to the authorities if you prefer. The authorities at the port or airport need pre-notification of the arrival of the organic goods, and you should check with the particular authority how much notice they need; the notice period is normally 24 to 48 hours. We suggest you also check the procedures they follow (freight forwarders should also be familiar with the process). The authority will endorse the back of the certificate in Section 17. If the certificate of inspection is not endorsed by the relevant authority, the import is not legal, and the organic goods may lose their organic status.
When the goods arrive, the ‘first consignee’ (i.e. the warehouse or another nominated person) must check the goods are as ordered, and that the consignment is intact and hasn’t been opened. Once they’re satisfied, the first consignee must sign section 18 of the EC certificate of inspection to confirm the checks have been done. You’ll need to store your goods with an organically certified warehouse, preferably someone who will be able to distribute your goods for you, too. Stowga can connect you with the right partner anywhere in the UK. The original EC certificate of inspection must be kept available for inspection together with the shipping documents or bill of lading that accompany the goods.
Your first inspection is usually 6 to 8 weeks after the receipt of your application form and fee payment. The inspection report is then assessed and a compliance notice is issued (usually within 2 to 3 weeks). You may have to provide more information to complete the certification process. The length of time the process takes depends on how quickly you can send the information to OF&G (or whichever certification partner you choose). As an importer, your inspection will be paper-based and focus on the organic procedures you have in place. It will check in detail that you’re completing the EC certificate of inspection correctly.
The organic certification fee is an annual fee. Fees are banded, and based on the operator’s annual turnover. The fee includes the inspection, report assessment and artwork approvals to meet organic requirements. There is no extra fee for adding new products throughout the year. OF&G use direct debit to spread the cost of the certification fee throughout the year.