What you need to know
An overview of importing stored plant products (including grains, seeds, and nuts) from start to finish.
What this import process covers
This process covers grains, seeds, and nuts imported for processing into food for humans.
If your grain, seed, or nut products are already processed, follow the import process for processed food from plants.
If you intend to germinate seeds, follow the import process for seeds for sowing.
If your product contains any other ingredient, such as egg, meat, dairy, or seafood, you need to also comply with the import process for each ingredient.
To import grains, seeds, and nuts successfully you need to know about:
- ensuring your product is covered by an import health standard (IHS)
- complying with the requirements of the IHS
- complying with the Grain Import System (GIS) requirements, if required
- permits, if needed
- arranging phytosanitary and treatment certificates and declarations, if needed
- booking a transitional facility, if required.
New Zealand Customs Service requirements
- product prohibitions and restrictions
- tariffs and permits
- using a customs broker.
Meet Food Act requirements
- food importer registration
- general requirements of registered food importers – sourcing and keeping food safe and suitable, records, and recalls
- the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, including labelling, composition and restricted foods
- foods classed of "high regulatory interest" and "increased regulatory interest" (these will require food safety clearance)
- how to get food safety clearance
- fees and charges that apply for services provided by MPI and other agencies.
Organic food, irradiated food, genetically modified food, and supplemented foods have additional requirements besides the Food Act. Learn more:
- Organic food
- [PDF, 125 KB]
- [PDF, 137 KB]
- [PDF, 67 KB]
Are you using wood packaging?
If your consignment is shipped to New Zealand on wooden pallets, or wood has been used to package any part of your consignment, you'll also need to comply with the requirements for importing wood packaging.
Exported 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.
Who to contact
If you have any questions about importing grains, seeds, or nuts, email firstname.lastname@example.org
What you need to do
The tasks you need to complete.
Identify what you're importing
You need to know the name of your plant (common or scientific name), whether it has the potential to germinate (is viable), and its intended end use.
Check other agencies' import restrictions
Check with the New Zealand Customs Service (NZ Customs) whether:
- you can import the product without restriction
- the product will be subject to duties or tariffs
- a NZ Customs permit is needed.
Visit the NZ Customs website to:
Some plant products 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.
Visit the Ministry of Health's website to find out about the requirements for importing controlled drugs and industrial hemp.
Restricted plant species are Papaver somniferum (poppy seed), Cannabis sativa (hemp), and Salvia species.
Consider using a customs broker
A customs broker will help you get import entry clearance. Some services provided by NZ Customs 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 import health standard (IHS) requirements
You'll need to understand and comply with the biosecurity requirements for your product.
Find the import health standard for your product
The import health standards (IHS) tell you what you need to do to import your product into New Zealand. There are 2 import health standards for importing grains, seeds, and nuts. Check each IHS to find out which one covers your products.
Read the IHS for your product thoroughly to make sure you can meet all of the requirements.
Most plant-based food products are covered by the IHS of stored plant products for human consumption (SPP.HUMAN.IHS). This includes all nuts, and some grains and seeds. Biosecurity requirements are listed by a commodity's common name. Depending on the commodity, sometimes you may be referred to another IHS.
If your product isn't listed in SPP.HUMAN IHS, check the list of species in Part 2 of the IHS for grain and seeds (GCFP.IHS).
Products not listed in the IHS
If your product isn't listed, you can search for the IHS for your product. Or it may be possible to import your commodity under the IHS for seeds for sowing.
Options when your product isn't included in an IHS
If there's no IHS for your product, you can't import it. However, you can ask MPI to consider developing a new IHS for your product.
To make a request, use a separate form for each commodity, and email or post it and any additional information to MPI.
MPI prioritises requests for each new IHS, and it may take several years to finalise your request.
Decide when to have your product inspected
Depending on the IHS requirements for your commodity, there may be more than one option for when your product has inspections – at the border or at a transitional facility. If you're unsure which is the best option to follow, ask your customs broker or email email@example.com
Comply with the Grain Importing System (GIS), if required
The IHS for your product will tell you whether you need to comply with extra biosecurity requirements set out in the GIS (Grain Importing System). If needed, you'll have to provide a written operating manual for MPI that details how you will handle, store, and process the imported grain. You'll have to submit this to MPI and apply for accreditation to get approval to import your product. Trucks that transport your grain must be approved by MPI and be detailed in your operating manual.
To find out more about GIS requirements and how to submit a plan, read the operating standard "PIT-GFP-ISR Grain for Processing Import System Requirements".
Meet phytosanitary requirements, if required
You may need to apply for a phytosanitary certificate, which is issued in the exporting country. Additional declarations may also be required for your product.
To meet the requirements you may need to complete some or all of the following tasks before shipping:
- arrange pre-shipment inspection for detectable weed seed or pests, and arrange fumigation or other treatments, if necessary
- arrange testing, if importing viable seed
- get the manufacturer's information, if required (it can help to have documentation that identifies the commercial processes used on your product)
- use approved packaging and shipping materials that are free of soil or other contaminants
- label the consignment with its scientific (genus and species) name
- meet any extra requirements listed in the IHS.
If you're using wood packaging, make sure it meets the phytosanitary requirements as well.
Apply for a phytosanitary certificate, if needed
To apply for a certificate you or your export supplier should contact the relevant National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO, an equivalent agency to MPI) in the export country. You can find the contact details on the International Plants Protection Convention (IPPC) website.
A phytosanitary certificate is issued once the contact-point NPPO is satisfied that the IHS requirements have been met.
The original phytosanitary certificate must be included with your consignment.
Not sure what to do?
If you have questions about phytosanitary certificates, contact the export agent or your contact-point agent.
Test for genetically modified (GM) seed, if required
If the IHS requires GM testing for your seed species, you'll need to have it tested before it arrives in New Zealand, and the certificate must accompany your consignment.
Get a seed analysis and certification, if required
If your consignment is accompanied by a seed analysis certificate (SAC), a smaller sample may be required for testing. This can result in faster clearance of your consignment at the border.
If you decide to get a SAC, then you need to have your seed analysed either by an MPI-approved or accredited testing station like the International Seed Testing Association or Association of Official Seed Analysts. Ask your seed supplier about the options for seed analysis.
Apply for an import permit, if required
The IHS will tell you whether an import permit is needed for your food product. If required, apply for a permit by completing the application form and returning it to MPI. Fees apply.
Arrange a transitional facility, if required
MPI approves transitional facilities to hold and manage imported goods that might have 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 your container to be transferred to a transitional facility, before your goods arrive in New Zealand.
Check packaging and labelling requirements
Packaging must be secure so that pests can't get inside, and must be clean and free from soil or other contaminants. If you're using wood products (other than paper) to pack your consignment, there are extra conditions to meet to make sure there are no hidden pests or diseases.
Correct labelling will help ensure that your consignment can be quickly identified and processed by border clearance staff when it arrives in New Zealand. If your product is pre-packaged, the IHS may require the volume of packages to be clearly displayed.
Submit all required documentation
You or your customs broker need to make sure that all of the necessary documentation is submitted to NZ Customs or MPI in the 48 hours before the consignment arrives in New Zealand.
Note that if you are operating under a GIS, your documentation must be received at least 5 days before the consignment arrives in New Zealand.
If required by the IHS, documentation may include:
- a copy of the phytosanitary certificate (the original should be with your consignment)
- the manufacturer's certificate
- treatment certificates
- the purchase invoice
- a bill of lading
- a sea freight container declaration or air waybill.
Comply with on-arrival inspections, if required
Your documentation will be checked, and an MPI inspector may examine the consignment when it arrives in New Zealand to make sure it complies with the IHS. The inspector may check that:
- the consignment is as described
- the 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
- weed seed to be removed
- the consignment to be moved to a transitional facility, to be held for inspection
- the consignment to be moved to a post-entry quarantine (PEQ) facility, for quarantine.
The inspection process and information about pest or weed contamination are detailed in the IHS.
If your consignment doesn't comply when it arrives
If your consignment doesn't comply with IHS requirements on arrival, or it's found to be seriously contaminated (such as with live organisms) you may need to:
- treat your product (for example, by fumigation or weed seed removal)
- 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 at a transitional facility by an approved treatment provider. You're liable for any costs associated with non-compliance or contamination.
Meet Food Act requirements
Registered food importers
If you want to import food for sale in New Zealand, you must:
- register as a food importer with MPI, or
- use an agent who is registered as a food importer.
MPI lists registered food importers in a public database.
Note: To register as a food importer you or your company must be a New Zealand resident as defined in sections YD1 (for persons) or YD2 (for companies) of the Income Tax Act 2007.
Becoming a registered food importer
To register as a food importer, download and submit the Customs client registration form 224.
Your registration won't be completed until the form has been processed and the fee has been paid.
If you need help with registering, contact MPI by:
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- phone: 0800 008 333 or 04 894 2550
Comply with regulations and standards
Registered food importers must meet food safety requirements under the Food Act 2014. These include:
- confirming the safety and suitability of food they import
- safely handling and transporting food
- meeting specific requirements for foods identified as presenting a higher risk to consumers, also known as foods of high or increased regulatory interest.
All food businesses must comply with the Food Act 2014, Food Regulations 2015 and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. For example, food sold in retail shops must have labels in English, with a New Zealand distributor's name and address.
As a registered food importer you must also comply with regulations about sourcing foods that are safe and suitable, storing and transporting those foods, and keeping records.
Check if your product requires food safety clearance
MPI must check the safety of "foods of regulatory interest" before they can be imported and sold. These are types of foods that have made people sick in the past, or may make people sick. Customs or your customs broker will tell you if a food safety clearance is required.
Grains, seeds and nuts of regulatory interest
- Peanuts and pistachio nuts, and their products (including peanut butter)
- Tahini and crushed sesame seeds, and any products containing them.
If, after checking, they're shown to be safe, you'll be given a food safety clearance and the food can be imported.
Grains, seeds and nuts from Australia
You can import any grains, seeds, nuts (and their products, such as peanut butter) from Australia without a food safety clearance.
If your grains, seeds, or nuts don't need food safety clearance
Go to Step 3 – Getting your import documentation.
Getting food safety clearance
If you're importing grains, seeds, nuts that requires food safety clearance, you may be asked to demonstrate their safety one of 3 ways:
- NZ Importer Assurance: A registered food importer that's verified by MPI can be issued with a NZ Importer Assurance (previously known as a Multiple Release Permit).
- Official certificate: For some countries, MPI will accept official certificates (from the appropriate government agency) as assurance the food is safe.
- Sampling and testing: In some cases, food will have to be sampled and tested. MPI will tell you if this is required.
How to apply
You can request food safety clearance using the Trade Single Window.
Trade single window
Follow the instructions on the Trade Single Window (TSW) website. You'll need to log in using the RealMe login service, and then register as a TSW user.
Your application should include:
- an invoice for the consignment
- the bill of lading or airway bill.
If the food being imported requires an official certificate, you should also include that with your application.
When inspection, sampling or testing is required
MPI will tell you if the food you're importing needs to be inspected, sampled or tested. If that happens, MPI will sample the product and send samples to your choice of MPI-approved laboratory. You'll need to pay the sampling, transport and testing costs – and share the test results with MPI.
MPI's Central Clearing House can also answer questions:
- Email email@example.com
- Phone 09 909 6210 or 09 909 6211
- Fax 09 909 6208.
Getting your import documentation
How you know you've met MPI requirements.
All imported plant products need biosecurity clearance. Some may also require a food safety clearance.
If a biosecurity inspector is satisfied that your products comply with the import health standard (IHS), clearance will be issued soon after your goods arrive.
If you were issued with a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC) by an MPI quarantine inspector, you may need it for clearance by other agencies.
If your products don't comply with an IHS, your goods may not be cleared. However, you may be given the chance to provide further documentation or treatment for your product. Each compliance issue is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
Food safety clearance
A Food Safety Officer (FSO) will assess your application against the requirements of the Food Act. You'll be notified of the outcome through the Trade Single Window system or directly by MPI.
Clearance may be given "without direction", which means you're free to move and sell the product within New Zealand. If the food requires inspection or sampling, or it's not safe and suitable for people to eat then you'll receive clearance with direction. Directions given may include reprocessing the food, re-exporting it, or destroying it.