Steps to exporting
Seafood exporters must be registered, and follow food standards and other regulations, as well as meeting the requirements of their destination country. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.
Follow the steps
Seafood products are all fish and fish products, including finfish, crustaceans, cephalopods, echinoderms, molluscs, gastropods, and bivalve molluscan shellfish.
To export seafood products you need to know about:
- registering as an exporter with MPI
- all legislation relating to your type of business
- the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and New Zealand food legislation, including fish-name labelling requirements
- all the requirements of your destination country
- operating under a risk management programme or regulated control scheme if your seafood needs 'official assurance', or under the Food Act
- registering for access to E-cert, MPI's online certification system, to apply for the required export certificates (official assurances)
- border clearance requirements
- relevant fees and charges.
Register as an exporter or use the services of a registered exporter
If you're exporting commercially you must register with MPI, or use the services of a registered exporter. Exporter registration can be done online, or by completing a printed form.
If you have questions about registering as an exporter, email email@example.com.
Comply with New Zealand legislation and food standards
You need to meet labelling requirements and all relevant food standards and regulations, including the Food Act. For more information refer to the:
- Animal Products Act 1999 on the NZ Legislation website
- Food Act 2014 on the NZ Legislation website
- Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code on the Food Standards website
Find out the market access requirements for your destination country
As an exporter you're responsible for knowing and meeting the Overseas Market Access Requirements (OMAR) for your destination country. OMARs differ between countries and products, and set out requirements for all operators in your export chain – for example, processors, storage operators, and transporters.
You need to apply to MPI to read the seafood OMARs because they're password protected.
Search for your OMAR
When you have your pasword, you'll be able to read the OMARs for your products.
Read the OMAR for your destination country thoroughly to make sure you can comply with all of the requirements.
If there's an OMAR for your export destination you'll likely need an 'official assurance', also known as an export certificate, before you can send your product. Official assurance is the New Zealand Government's assurance to the destination country that your product meets the standards set out in the OMAR.
Other information you should check includes:
Guidance offered by FYIs can help you with exporting concerns or issues. (You may need your OMAR password to read some FYIs.)
OMAR notifications will give you the latest updates for your destination country.
Find out if your premises need to be approved
Some countries require premises or harvest areas to be approved, or 'listed', before you can export your products. 'Listing' is a procedure agreed between governments for ensuring that a country's market access requirements are met and products are produced in premises or areas approved to export to that country. Your OMAR will tell you if you need to be listed and the process to follow.
Exporting to a country with no OMAR
If there is no OMAR for your export destination, work directly with your importing agent to find out about certification and any other requirements. If an import permit is required, the permit will outline the requirements.
Note that if there's no OMAR it could mean your product is prohibited from being sent to that country.
If you export to countries that don't need official assurances and you're a secondary processor, you may operate under:
- a risk management programme
- a food safety programme
- the food hygiene regulations.
If you export to countries that don't need official assurances and are a primary processor who exports, you must operate under a risk management programme.
Some destinations that don't need official assurances may instead require a free sales certificate (FSC), or a free sales advice statement (FSAS).
Operating under a risk management programme or regulated control scheme
To get an official assurance for seafood from MPI, the seafood must be produced and processed under an approved programme. These are:
- a registered and verified risk management programme (RMP)
- a regulated control scheme (RCS) in the case of limited processing fishing vessels.
Other suppliers in your export chain – for example, fishing vessels, farms, storage operators, processors, and transporters – may also need to operate under an approved programme. Information in the RMP or RCS will form part of your application for official assurance.
RMPs and RCSs help you manage hazards, ensure your seafood is fit for purpose, and meet legal requirements. If at any point the seafood is processed, transported, or stored outside of an approved programme, you can’t get an official assurance and your seafood will lose its eligibility for export.
- Read about RMPs for seafood
- Learn about operating a limited processing fishing vessel
- Learn more about RMPs
Other resources to help you prepare an RMP or RCS, if needed
You can prepare a RMP by using one of the codes of practice (COP) that MPI has developed in consultation with the seafood industry.
You can prepare an RCS by using a guideline developed by MPI in consultation with the seafood industry.
Get your programme verified
After developing your programme, you must register it and get it verified each year. MPI Verification Services verifies operators. You need to work with them to make sure your seafood complies with all of the requirements and that you're following your RMP or RCS.
Check other requirements are being met
Stand-alone operators who store seafood before it is exported must meet specific requirements, depending on their market. Seafood also has specific storage temperature requirements, which are detailed in the COP.
- Read about requirements for stores (cold and dry)
- Find out about temperature requirements in the COP
Use the correct fish names on labels
Labels on fish and fish products for export must meet specific requirements.
Apply for access to E-cert
E-cert is the web application MPI uses to issue official assurances (export certificates) for food products that are exported from New Zealand. It is mandatory to use E-cert for some countries, and strongly recommended for all others. E-cert tracks products from the time they’re produced until they're exported.
E-cert is password protected, and new exporters need to apply for access.
Your registration should be finalised within a week, providing all supplied information is correct and payments have been made. If you have any questions about E-cert, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Request an export certificate through E-cert
Once you are a registered user of E-cert, you can access the password-protected website and apply for an official assurance (export certificate) for your consignment.
The information you enter about your seafood products and the declarations you make will confirm that your product complies with requirements.
If you're exporting another manufacturer's products, you may need their help to complete the E-cert applications.
Are you using wood packaging?
If you use wood packaging products – other than paper – for your export product, check your wood packaging meets the phytosanitary requirements of the destination country. Most countries require you to treat your wood packaging to make sure it's free of pests and diseases.
When MPI is satisfied that your seafood products comply with all requirements and standards, we issue the official assurance (export certificate) through E-cert.
The official assurance can be provided for your consignment in various ways. Check the OMAR of your destination country and the Official Assurances Programme for more information.
- Refer to the official assurance specifications [PDF, 415 KB]
When to alert MPI
As an exporter you're responsible for telling MPI within 24 hours if your seafood for export:
- becomes unfit for the intended purpose
- is refused entry by a foreign government
- fails to meet the relevant Overseas Market Access Requirements (OMARs)
- doesn't have the required export documents – for example, if they have been removed or lost.
Contact MPI if your products don't conform to our export requirements. You can either use the export non-conformance report to alert MPI about any problems, or use your own form – as long as your notification contains all the necessary information.
Who to contact
If you have questions about export non-conformance, email email@example.com.