Steps to importing

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


What you need to know

An overview of importing seed for sowing from start to finish.


What 'seed for sowing' includes

The types of seed included in this import process include:

  • whole seeds
  • pre-germinated seed with the radicle (embryonic root) emerged
  • seeds in growing kits or paper, or other ready-to-plant products
  • pelleted seed in a protective covering.

To import seeds for sowing you need to know about:

  • your seed species and whether it's approved for import from the country of origin
  • the import health standard (IHS 155.02.05) for your seed
  • complying with the IHS requirements
  • arranging treatments and post-entry quarantine, if needed
  • 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:

Importing related products

The process for importing micro-organisms – plant spores, pollen, and plant germplasm – is different from the process for importing seeds for sowing, and is set out elsewhere on this website.


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 classification. You'll need to know your seed's scientific name (genus and species) to complete a search.

Interpreting search results

The PBI search results state whether a species can be imported as seed and the type of entry conditions for that species.

Column 1 lists scientific names.

Column 2 lists the import specifications for seed for sowing. Only species listed with an import specification of 'basic' or 'see 155 02 05' can be imported. The figures '155 02 05' are a reference to the import health standard (IHS) for seeds for sowing.

If column 2 says 'requires assessment', then you can ask MPI about having the seed assessed. Email your request to

If your species isn't listed on the PBI, check to see whether it's listed by another name.

If the PBI lists your plant species as 'entry prohibited', you can't import it. If it's a new species that's not on the list, you can apply to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for permission.

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
  • a NZ Customs permit is needed (such as for health products).

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.

Some types of seeds, such as industrial hemp, may be controlled under Ministry of Health regulations, or may require a licence. Check with the ministry to find out.

Consider using a customs broker 

A customs broker will help you get import entry clearance. Some services provided by the New Zealand Customs Service can only be accessed by registered customs brokers.

Many freight and transport companies employ their own brokers but if you need help finding one, contact the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation.

Comply with the import health standard (IHS) requirements

Biosecurity requirements are detailed in documents called import health standards. The import health standard (IHS) Seed for sowing will provide you with the requirements to successfully import seed for sowing. Import requirements vary, depending on the category listing for the species in the PBI.

If your seed species is listed in the PBI as 'basic', refer to Part 1 of the IHS. For all other seed species, refer to the name of the species in the Specific Requirements in Part 2 of the IHS.

Download the IHS for importing seed for sowing [PDF, 2.2 MB]

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.

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

Pelleted and Beta vulgaris seeds

MPI introduced new border measures in March 2016 for pelleted seeds and Beta vulgaris seeds for sowing.

The new requirements are:

Testing for genetically modified (GM) seed

Some seed species must be tested for the presence of genetically modified seed. If the IHS requires testing for your seed species, then you'll need to have it tested before it arrives in New Zealand. The certificate must accompany your consignment.

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.

If your seed is not accompanied by an SAC, samples will be inspected and may be sent for testing for weed seeds and other contaminants at an MPI-approved seed lab. Sampling, testing, and analysis will be at your expense.

Comply with phytosanitary requirements

Seed listed as 'basic' in the PBI can be shipped without a phytosanitary certificate but will be sampled and inspected on arrival in New Zealand at your expense.

For all other seed species, listed in the PBI as 'see 155.02.05…' a phytosanitary certificate is required and 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.

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.

The original phytosanitary certificate must be included with your seed consignment and presented to MPI.

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.

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.

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 in the IHS and with MPI, if the relevant information is not listed in 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.

Post-entry quarantine 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. It is recommended 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 seed packaging 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:

Comply with labelling requirements

The outside of the package must be clearly labelled with the scientific (genus and species) name of the seed species.

Put a copy of the phytosanitary certificate and permit to import (if required) into a green envelope addressed to 'MPI doc'. Attach the envelope securely to the outside of the package so it can be easily seen.

Submit all required documentation

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.


Getting your import documents

How you know you've met MPI requirements.


Check that you or your customs broker have complied with the conditions listed in the IHS for all pre-shipment, transit, and on-arrival tasks.

Biosecurity clearance

If a biosecurity inspector is satisfied that your products comply with the import health standard (IHS 155.02.05), clearance will be issued soon after your goods arrive.

If your products do not comply with the IHS, your goods won't be cleared until you have complied or been given permission to make an 'equivalence import'.

Export goods returning to New Zealand

All exporters are legally obliged to notify MPI if their export goods are being returned to New Zealand – for example, if a consignment has been rejected by an importing country.

Exporters can either use the export non-conformance report to alert MPI about any problems, or use their own form – as long as the notification contains all of the necessary information.

Who to contact

If you have questions about importing seed for sowing, email

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