Steps to exporting fresh vegetables

Plant health, food safety, labelling, and quality grade requirements differ widely from country to country, so you need to comply with the requirements of your destination country. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.

Follow the steps 

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What you need to know

An overview of exporting fresh vegetables from start to finish.

What types of produce are classified as fresh?

Vegetable products are 'fresh' if they're unprocessed. This includes vegetables that have been washed before packing, such as loose salad leaves.

Fresh vegetables don't include those that have been processed by heating (blanched, steamed, dried), preserving, or blast freezing (frozen) before packing.

To export fresh vegetables successfully you need to know about:

  • New Zealand's food safety requirements (which you must meet first)  
  • phytosanitary, food safety, quality grade, and labelling requirements for your destination country
  • complying with extra requirements for specific commodities, where necessary
  • using MPI-authorised Independent Verification Agencies (IVAs), or MPI-approved service providers or facilities for phytosanitary activities
  • the export requirements set by the relevant industry sector.

You may have to meet other requirements as well. These requirements might be commercial, or set by other government agencies like the New Zealand Customs Service. It will also pay to check with your importing agent in the destination country to make sure you haven't overlooked any requirements.

Some products have extra phytosanitary requirements

There are extra requirements or assurance processes to follow for potatoes, onions and loose tomatoes exported to specific destination countries. If you plan to export these products, check what else you may need to do.

onions on top of ground

potatoes on top of ground

tomatoes on vine

Onions, garlic, leeks, and shallots Potatoes Tomatoes (loose) to Australia

Information for organic exporters

If you're exporting organic vegetables, you need to know about the Official Organic Assurance Programme (OOAP). This programme is designed to facilitate the export of organic products to specific countries.

What you need to do

The tasks you need to complete.

Check and comply with phytosanitary requirements

Each country has different phytosanitary (plant health) requirements. For most countries, you can find out the requirements by reading the Importing Countries Phytosanitary Requirements (ICPR).

If your export destination has an ICPR, you need to comply with the requirements and contact an MPI-authorised Independent Verification Agency (IVA) for help. There may be other requirements (like documentation, pre-clearance tests, or treatments) that the IVA will be able to advise you about. Fees may apply.

When there's no ICPR

For countries that don't have an ICPR, you may need an import permit. Ask your importer or agent in your destination country to check their country's requirements.

You can read more about phytosanitary certificates issued when there's no ICPR in Section 3.3.2 of the MPI Certification Standard: Assurance System Framework.

Check New Zealand's food safety requirements

All food produced in New Zealand for sale in New Zealand or export overseas must comply with the New Zealand Food Act, the joint Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, and, for pesticide residues, the New Zealand Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) standard. Make sure you're familiar with these requirements.

There may also be requirements around heavy metals and microbiological contaminants – check the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code to find out.

Check the destination country's food safety requirements

Some destination countries have different or additional food safety standards or requirements, and it's your responsibility to comply with them. They may include food safety requirements for pesticide residues, micro-organisms, and contaminants or 'foreign bodies'.

Check the destination country's food safety criteria by contacting their official food regulator, or ask your import agent.

Check the pesticide maximum residue levels (MRLs)

Most countries have maximum residue levels (MRLs) for pesticides, to safeguard consumer health and to promote good agricultural practice (GAP) in the use of insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, and other agricultural compounds.

Sometimes the MRLs set by your export destination country are more stringent than New Zealand's. The country you're exporting to may carry out border testing to make sure your consignment meets their MRLs.

The MRLs for many countries are held in a searchable database maintained by MPI. You can search by country, crop, or pesticide. (Note that MPI cannot  guarantee the accuracy of this database.) You should also check the destination country's relevant legislation before exporting your product.

Find out more
Undertake pesticide residue testing, if required

Your industry group may have an export programme for your product. It may specify rules for pesticide use and residue testing. Contact your industry group for more information.

If residue testing is required, MPI has recognised several laboratories that do residue analysis using specified test methods.

Check the industry group's requirements

Industry groups sometimes set other requirements. You may be able to find contact details for your product on the Horticulture Export Authority (HEA) or Horticulture New Zealand websites, or contact them for more information.

Check HEA's requirements if you are exporting these products:

  • buttercup squash
  • truffles.

Check the destination country's labelling and packaging requirements

There may be food, packaging, or other labelling requirements for your produce. Ask your importer or agent about any requirements that your produce needs to meet.

Check wood packaging requirements

If you use wood packaging products other than paper for your export product, check that your wood packaging meets the phytosanitary requirements of the destination country. Most countries require you to treat wood packaging to make sure it's free of pests and diseases. 

Request a phytosanitary certificate, if required

MPI issues phytosanitary certificates when it considers that your products meet all of the importing country's phytosanitary requirements.

If you need a phytosanitary certificate, request it through ePhyto, MPI's online phytosanitary certification system. You can register to use ePhyto yourself, or contact an IVA to discuss your options.

You may need to include the certificate in the documents you give to your freight or shipping company.  

Already registered with ePhyto?
New to using ePhyto?
Getting your export documentation

How you know you've met MPI requirements.

You've met MPI requirements when you're issued with all the approved documentation, like phytosanitary certificates, as required by the destination country.

Who to contact

MPI uses authorised Independent Verification Agencies (IVAs) to provide information for exporters, including destination country requirements, ePhyto requests and verification, phytosanitary inspection, and pest surveys.

If you have questions about phytosanitary requirements, contact an IVA. 

For other enquiries, email

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