Brexit: DAFM guide to importing plants and second-hand machinery from the UK

With 65 days to go until the end of the Brexit transition period, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) held an event today (Wednesday, October 28) covering all matters related to plant imports from the UK.

In a webinar attended virtually by AgriLand, Shane Kirk, assistant agricultural inspector with the Horticulture and Plant Health Division of the department, discussed import controls, regulated and prohibited plants and plant products, phytosanitary certificates and wood packaging material.

From January 1, 2021, the regulations outlined below will apply. However, as noted by Kirk, under the terms of the Northern Ireland protocol, trade between the north and Republic of Ireland is unaffected, and all the regulations outlined relate to products coming from Great Britain.

Import controls

Kirk explains that import controls are checks that the department carries out on plants and plant products coming from third countries, which the UK will be once the transition period is up.

These checks are carried out because Ireland is a full member of the International Plant Protection Convention and under the terms of that, countries agree to implement measures to prevent the introduction or spread of pests and diseases.

The Department of Agriculture is the designated National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) in Ireland.

The EU regulations on import controls that Ireland operates under are:
  • Plant Health Regulation 2016/2031;
  • Official Controls Regulation 2017/625;
  • Commission Implementing Directive 2019/2071.

Checks are required on plants and plant products from third countries upon their introduction to the EU. All plants or plant products are regulated and all regulated goods must have a phytosanitary certificate.

Plant and plant products includes: trees; shrubs; flower; cuttings; bulbs; corms; fruits; berries; and seeds. There are five exceptions: dates; durians; bananas; pineapples; and coconuts.

With soil from third countries being prohibited, any growing medium attached to plants must be made up entirely of peat or coconut fibre.

Second-hand machinery

Second-hand machinery from third countries are also regulated. Machines that are affected are those that have previously been used for agriculture, horticulture or forestry purposes.

According to Kirk, the reason second-hand machines are regulated is because machinery parts could have the presence of soil or plant debris or organic matter and they all have the potential to carry pests and diseases into Ireland.

The regulated machines include: tractors; ploughs; tuber harvesters; planters; combine harvesters; harrows; and rotavators.

Even if there is a phytosanitary certificate, if a machine is found to have debris, it will not be allowed into the country.

What is a phytosanitary certificate?

A phytosanitary certificate is an official document, it comes from the NPPO of the exporting country.

If anyone is exporting plants from Ireland to a third country, they contact the department, which conducts an inspection and provides the certificate, addressed to the NPPO of the country importing.

Kirk says that it is, essentially, the official document between two NPPOs.


Kirk explains that one of the ways in which plants or plant products can be imported is through a personal consignment – a consignment attached to a traveller.

As outlined above, all plants and plant products are regulated and will need a phytosanitary certificate. Kirk gave the example that if someone is in Great Britain and buys a plant, they will require a certificate. He urges people not to risk it by buying plants and seeds in a third country, advising those who are tempted to buy plants and plant products in Ireland.

With commercial consignments of plants, there are three locations that imports can enter from – under EU regulations, DAFM is required to nominate Border Control Posts. The three designated are Dublin Airport, Dublin Port and Rosslare Port.

Wood packaging materials – anything like crates and pallets – are also regulated. Kirk notes that it does not matter if the product is a washing machine or a plant – the wood packaging itself has to be compliant with the regulation ISPM 15.

ISPM is an international plant health measure which sets out standards for treatment and marking of wood packaging material to help prevent the international transport and spread of diseases and insects that could negatively affect trees, plants or ecosystems.