The importation of produce into Canada is a hugely important industry and it brings with it some unique challenges.
One of the primary challenges is understanding the interaction between Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The type of produce, the time of year, and the packaging itself are all variables that can cause potential delays and added costs at the border. Licensing, permits and accurate documentation all play a key role in a successful shipment.
For example, fresh potatoes for consumption have minimum grade requirements that must be met as well as be accompanied by a certificate from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) attesting to this fact. Potatoes also are one of the few fresh produce items that attract a duty rate of $4.94 per metric tonne. In addition, during the period of August 1st through April 30th, Russet potatoes are subject to dump duty. The amount of dump duty changes from week to week and is affected by the type of potato, packaging, and the U.S. state it is grown in. Not all produce commodities are as complicated as potatoes, however the basic procedures and processes are similar.
A good first step is to ensure that the type of produce that you wish to import is admissible into Canada. Certain commodities from certain countries or regions are prohibited entry, such as crab apples from Brazil or blueberries from Peru. The CFIA’s Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) is a handy interactive tool that allows importers to check the admissibility of a wide variety of products. This website will also advise of any additional documentation requirements and the associated regulations.
Secondly, importers of fresh fruits and vegetables are required to hold either a CFIA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Licence or become a member of the DRC (Dispute Resolution Corp). Please see the below links to each of the respective applications.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables for which Grades are Established:
3. Blueberries (exception – for processing)
11. Plums and Prunes
12. Field Rhubarb
13. Strawberries (exception – if no grade is used)
Vegetables: (miniature vegetables are excluded, but miniature cucumbers are included)
14. Asparagus (exception – white asparagus)
15. Beets (exception – beets with tops)
16. Brussels Sprouts
18. Carrots (exception – carrots with tops)
21. Sweet Corn
22. Field Cucumbers (exception – pickling cucumbers)
23. Greenhouse Cucumbers
24. Head Lettuce – Iceberg type
25. Onions (exception – onions with tops)
27. Potatoes (excluded if certified for seed)
29. Field Tomatoes (exception – cherry tomatoes)
30. Greenhouse Tomatoes
For most produce items containers cannot exceed 50 kg, although container sizes for apples cannot exceed 200 kg. Containers that fall outside of the approved standard sizing requirements would require application for a Ministerial Exemption which is further explained under the General Guidelines for Requesting Ministerial Exemptions.
Labelling and Packaging:
As with all importations into Canada, produce is subject to strict guidelines on labelling and packaging. Please visit Labelling Guide for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables for more information.
All produce entries are required to be documented on a Confirmation of Sale (COS). This document must be completed properly, signed, and kept at the importer’s place of business for six (6) years. Your customs broker will also be able to assist with filling this out.
Certificates of Origin, Phytosanitary Certificates, Plant Protection Import Permits, CITES Certificates, and Ministerial Exemptions are all types of additional documents that may be required to satisfy the CFIA, CBSA and other government departments. The perishable nature of produce make it a target for a variety of pests and this pest risk factor is the biggest trigger for additional documentation. As mentioned , the CFIA AIRS website mentioned above is an excellent tool that importers can use to determine whether the commodity in question requires any further documentation. Once a specific commodity is typed into the search, the system will prompt you for further information until all variables have been satisfied and then a list of required documents will pop up. Additionally, the specific regulations that pertain to the commodity are accessible by clicking the link.
In conclusion, the key to any successful importation is to research the product and regulations surrounding it thoroughly prior to its arrival at the border. A good rule of thumb is to check with your customs broker prior to importing a new produce item or importing from a new supplier as this will allow time to obtain any additional documents needed to meet the requirements of CBSA and CFIA.
Many importers find it valuable to attend educational seminars and webinars on the topic. The next webinar on CFIA Regulated Goods will be on Thursday, March 13, 2014, at 11:00 am PDT for 75 minutes. Register today!
Have questions about importing produce into Canada? Leave them in our comments section below or email Ask Your Broker.