Steps to importing seeds for sowing
If you want to import seed for sowing, you need to meet various biosecurity and phytosanitary requirements. We’ve created a step-by-step process so you can see what’s involved.
Follow the steps
Step 1 What you need to know
An overview of importing seed for sowing from start to finish.
To import seeds for sowing you need to know about:
- the scientific name (genus and species) of your seeds
- the Seeds for sowing import health standard (IHS)
- complying with the IHS requirements
- treatments and post-entry quarantine (if required)
- product prohibitions and restrictions
- New Zealand Customs Service tariffs and permits
- using a customs broker
- relevant fees and charges.
New rules for some seeds from March 2016
MPI introduced new border measures in March 2016 for pelleted and Beta vulgaris seeds for sowing.
The new requirements are that:
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Step 2 What you need to do
The tasks you need to complete.
Check whether the seed species can be imported
The MPI Plant Biosecurity Index (PBI) database lists all seed species that can be imported. You can search the database to find out if your seed species is listed and its import requirements. You’ll need to know your seed’s scientific name (genus and species) to complete a search. Complete the genus and the species field in the PBI.
- spell the scientific name correctly
- don’t leave a space after the last word
- use the scientific name – common names (like mandarin) won’t work
- use the correct scientific name if the plant has another scientific name.
Interpreting search results
The PBI search results state whether a species can be imported as seed, and list the section in the Seeds for sowing IHS where specific requirements can be found.
After searching the scientific name, 2 columns will appear:
- Column 1 lists the scientific name.
- Column 2 lists the specific import results or requirements for the seed.
What the results mean
Seed can be imported under general import requirements in the IHS, Part 1.
see 155.02.05 under _X_
Seed can be imported according to ‘X’ section in the IHS, Part 2. (155.02.05 refers to the Seeds for sowing IHS).
Seed can’t be imported – you can ask MPI about having the seed assessed by emailing [email protected]
Seed can’t be imported – to import a new species that isn’t listed in the PBI, apply to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for approval.
Blank (no result)
Usually happens when a synonym has been used – for example, Abelia grandiflora instead of Abelia xgrandiflora. Search using the synonym (Abelia xgrandiflora) to get requirements.
“No records found matching search criteria”
Seed can’t be imported.
Check the seed for sowing import health standard
Biosecurity requirements are detailed in documents called import health standards (IHS). The Seed for sowing IHS provides the details of what you need to do to successfully import your seed. All seed must comply with the general import requirements outlined in Part 1 of the IHS. Your seed may also have specific requirements outlined in Part 2 – check the section of the IHS that was listed in the PBI.
Contact MPI about your product
Contact MPI plant imports team to discuss the requirements (including post-entry quarantine) for the seeds you intend to import.
- Email [email protected]
Check other agencies’ import restrictions
Check with the New Zealand Customs Service whether:
- you can import the product without restriction
- the product will be subject to duties or tariffs.
Visit the NZ Customs website to:
Some plants (including their seeds) are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and cannot be transported between countries, or can only be imported with a permit. Check that your seeds are not protected.
Comply with phytosanitary requirements
A phytosanitary certificate is required if specified in Part 2: Specific Requirements. The IHS will state the requirements you need to meet (including additional declarations) before your seeds leave the exporting country.
To apply for a phytosanitary certificate or if you have questions, contact your export broker or the relevant National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO, an equivalent agency to MPI) in the country of export. You can find contact details on the International Plants Protection Convention (IPPC) website.
Consider getting a seed analysis certificate
You can choose to have your consignment accompanied by a seed analysis certificate (SAC), which can result in faster clearance of your consignment at the border when it arrives in New Zealand.
For more information about SACs, refer to section 1.5.3 of the IHS.
A phytosanitary certificate is issued once the contact point NPPO is satisfied that the requirements of the IHS have been met, along with any additional declarations required.
Apply for an import permit, if required
The IHS will tell you whether an import permit is required for your seed species. If needed, apply for a permit by completing the application form and returning it to MPI. Fees apply.
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Testing for genetically modified (GM) seed
Some seed species must be tested for the presence of genetically modified seed if specified in the IHS.
Request assessment under equivalent measures
If your seed won’t be able to meet all of the IHS requirements you can ask MPI about assessing your product under equivalent measures. This is known as ‘equivalence’. Find out more about equivalence in the IHS. Fees apply.
To ask MPI about equivalence, email [email protected]
Arrange transitional storage, if required
MPI approves transitional facilities to hold and manage imported goods that might pose a biosecurity risk. These goods may need to be inspected or treated at the transitional facility before they can be cleared by MPI.
If importing a small amount of seed through the mail centre or the airport, special arrangements for transitional facilities are generally not required.
All sea containers arriving in New Zealand need to be taken to a transitional facility and unpacked there.
You or your customs broker need to arrange for the transfer of your container to a transitional facility, before your goods arrive in New Zealand.
Book space in a post-entry quarantine facility, if required
Check the IHS to find out whether your seed needs to be held at a post-entry quarantine (PEQ) facility before being released to you. PEQ requirements are listed for your plant species in Part 2: Specific requirements of the IHS.
PEQ may be needed so that your seeds can be actively grown in controlled conditions. During quarantine, your seeds will be inspected, tested, and treated for the presence of any potential pests or diseases. We recommend that you contact an MPI-approved facility directly to make a booking prior to import. Fees apply.
Check packaging and labelling requirements
Correct packaging and labelling will help ensure that your consignment is quickly identified and processed by border clearance when it arrives in New Zealand.
The outside of the package must be clearly labelled with the scientific name (genus and species) of the seeds and must be clean and free from soil, pests, and other contaminants.
If you use packaging such as wood crates or peat, there are extra requirements or restrictions to ensure there are no hidden pests or diseases. Refer to the import requirements for:
Submit all required documentation
Consider using a customs broker
For information on customs brokers, contact the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation.
You or your customs broker need to make sure that all the necessary documentation is submitted to NZ Customs or MPI at least 48 hours before your consignment arrives in New Zealand.
A copy of the phytosanitary certificate must be included. Other documentation may include:
- treatment certificates
- a purchase invoice
- the bill of lading or air waybill
- the certificate for GM testing, if required
- the seed analysis certificate (recommended).
Comply with on-arrival inspections
An MPI inspector will check your documentation and may inspect the consignment when it arrives in New Zealand, to make sure it complies with the IHS. The inspector checks that:
- the consignment is as described in the documentation
- correct labelling is used, if required
- the consignment and packaging are free of contaminants (detritus, soil, disease, and pests).
The MPI quarantine inspector may issue a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) requiring:
- documentation to be corrected
- the consignment to be treated
- the consignment to be moved to a transition facility, to be held for inspection
- the consignment to be moved to a post-entry quarantine facility, for quarantine.
More information about the inspection process and maximum levels of pest or weed contamination is provided in sections 1.4 and 1.8 of the IHS.
If your consignment does not comply
If contamination (such as live organisms) is found in a container or your seed when it arrives, an MPI inspector will tell you the options for dealing with the consignment. Depending on the type of pest or disease found, you may:
- treat your product (for example, by fumigation)
- identify the organism (and treat it if it’s a restricted pest)
- ship the product to another destination country
- destroy the product.
All treatments have to be done by an approved treatment provider at a transitional facility. You are liable for any costs associated with non-compliance or contamination.
Importation of small seed lots
Project ID: 1606A
CEBRA Project Leader: Steve Lane
MPI Project Leader: Rose Souza Richards
MPI Project Manager: Peter Thompson (Plants, Food and Environment Directorate, Regulation & Assurance Branch)
To meet current phytosanitary requirements, MPI has established procedures for the documentation, sampling and testing of imported viable seeds to ensure that weed seeds and seed-borne diseases are not incidentally present in consignments. Most sampling and testing requirements use 2000 – 3000 seed samples in order to achieve 95% confidence of sampling and detecting weeds and diseased seeds at a rate of 0.15% to 0.1%, which does not readily facilitate the importation of small quantities of seed into New Zealand. Often testing is destructive which has a significant impact on the importation of high value breeders seed.
At present there is no option for modification of sampling and testing protocols for seed lots smaller than 2000 seeds or where destructive testing affects the purpose of import or the value of the seed lot. Hence, an alternative testing protocol designed specifically for importing small seed lots is required to maximise the sustainability and growth of the New Zealand seed export industry, while minimising the biosecurity risks to New Zealand. The protocol must be flexible enough to help facilitate the frequent import of different volumes of seeds, different species of seeds and seeds from different countries. The sample size protocol developed in this project may be used directly by the Plant Imports Team at MPI to enable importers of small seed consignments to meet all biosecurity requirements. After appropriate internal and external assessment, the sampling protocol may be incorporated into the Import Health Standard for Seeds for Sowing, which is currently under review. The protocol may also be used to aid risk management decisions for border clearance of consignments.
My seeds from attitude says "NZ Customs Assessment" am i fucked?
I have ordered some seeds couple of weeks ago and it finally arrived in NZ (been checking the track and trace thing). It arrived in NZ today but within 20mins of arrival, it's been sent to customs (according to the tracking history). Am I fucked? or is this what they do to all international parcels? I picked the super stealth shipping so it's hidden in an item like t shirt or mug whatever. I'm scared now I just wanted to grow my own medicine