Step-by-Step Guide to Move Seed from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
This page sets out the process for moving seed for planting from England and Wales to Northern Ireland (NI). Separate arrangements apply in Scotland and in relation to seed intended for forestry purposes (see details referred to at the bottom of this page).
Traders sending seed for planting from Great Britain (GB) to NI must ensure their consignments move with the required plant health certificate and any applicable marketing certificates and labels.
The Phytosanitary Certificate, the seed test certificate and the varietal certification certificates are issued separately, and all three may be required to move seed for planting from GB to NI.
Terms in this guide:
- Phytosanitary Certificate (PC) is an official document that attests a consignment meets phytosanitary (plant health) import requirements in relation to quarantine and regulated pests and diseases
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) certification enables specified agricultural seed to be marketed under European Union Directives by meeting varietal identity and species purity standards
- International Seed Testing Association (ISTA) Orange International Seed Lot Certificate (OIC) is issued when both the sampling and testing of a seed lot for analytical purity, other plant species and germination is completed in accordance with International Rules for Seed Testing
All seeds intended for planting that are moved from GB to NI must move with a PC and so meet NI’s import requirements. This includes small consignments, such as packets of seeds.
Seeds that do not require a PC include seed intended for consumption, for example sunflower seeds for consumption, grain for feed, or seeds for birds.
This table outlines whether OIC and OECD varietal requirements need to be met for different seed types. Not all seed needs an OECD certificate or OIC certificate under the marketing requirements, such as ornamentals or standard seed of vegetables.
GB has been granted equivalence by the EU for the following schemes: cereal, fodder, beet, oil and fibre. To be marketed in NI, seed lots under these schemes must be derived from certified seed crops eligible to be OECD certified for EU use, and the labels attached must bear the words “EC Rules and Standards”. OECD certified seed lots must also be accompanied by an ISTA OIC, unless the seed is moved in the “not finally certified” (grey label) arrangement, in which case an OIC is not required. The OECD certificate and OIC are valid for the life of the lot, which must remain unopened and unchanged. OECD labels can currently be ordered from Integrity Print, and the applicant must keep full records of the labels received and attached by them, including serial numbers. Applicants can hold stocks of labels for future use.
Equivalence has not yet been granted for OECD certified vegetable seed, so vegetable seed can only be marketed as standard seed (non-certified) if it is moved to NI. An OIC is therefore also not required for this standard seed, however the varietal and labelling requirements must be met for movement to NI.
There is not an OECD scheme for seeds of ornamentals, however varietal and labelling requirements must be met for movement to NI.
For seed originating outside GB, if it has been certified under the OECD seed scheme and shown to meet EC seed standards in a seed test run by ISTA or the Association of Official Seed Analysts (AOSA), either in the EU or a country that has been granted equivalence by the EU, it may be possible to move this seed to NI using the original labels and certificates. The exporter must discuss this with the NI’s Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to ensure the seed is acceptable.
GB grades such as Higher Voluntary Standard (HVS) are not recognised as OECD grades at export. Seed for export must be labelled and marketed as to the grade it relates under OECD certification, such as Basic seed (white label) or Certified seed of the first generation (blue label) or Certified seed of the second and subsequent generations (red label).
Seed being OECD certified at the Basic seed grade for use in NI must have had the seed crop inspected by an official crop inspector.
To move goods to NI you may need a GB EORI number.
The relevant customs declaration must be made by the exporter or the exporter’s agent.
Overview of process
The PC and Marketing steps can be carried out concurrently, and samples (step 3) for all requirements can be taken at the same time if you have stated you want a PHSI to take the Marketing sample (step 2).
Plant Health (PC)
Marketing (OECD OIC & ISTA)
Check plant health requirements
To check whether a PC is required you will need to contact the plant health authority (Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)), or a plant health inspector in NI.
Further information is available from the Plant Health Portal.
Check marketing requirements
Check whether the seed needs to be OECD certified and have a valid OIC certificate for movement to NI. This is not required for movements of vegetable or ornamental seeds.
For movement to NI the following tests and checks are required:
- Crop and plot examinations for varietal identity and purity
- For beet seed: moisture and germination tests
- Germination (or an ISTA tetrazolium (TZ) test, available for cereals moved to NI in 2021 only)
- Other plant species
- For beet seed, a moisture test is also required
Applicants apply online for a sample. A properly completed application should be received 7 days in advance of when the PC is required, and subject to any laboratory examinations that may be required
The applicant is required to state a preferred date and time of the seed inspection on the application for sampling, and so applications for sampling can be submitted well in advance of the export and the seed being ready.
If there is an urgent need for movement of seed, the applicant should discuss the situation with their local Plant Health and Seeds Inspector (PHSI) to ensure the PC is issued at the earliest opportunity.
NIAB will confirm the SLRN to the applicant, which is then to be printed on the OECD labels.
A Cert9 form for ISTA OIC is submitted to NIAB via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), stating the tests required and who you want to take the sample - Plant Health and Seeds Inspector (PHSI) or an industry sampler.
You can process and bag the seed and prepare and attach the OECD labels, with a scan of one additional label to be provided by the applicant to NIAB (email@example.com), and the label retained by the applicant.
NIAB will notify the sampler you have selected to arrange to take the sample.
If PHSI will be taking the sample, the application should be made no later than when submitting the application for the PC sample, to enable any samples required for the PC to be taken at the same time.
PHSI arranges to visit the site of inspection and will take a sample from each seed lot.
Where visual confirmation is not possible or testing is prescribed to determine if the seed is free from specified pests and diseases, the sample may be sent to the national reference laboratory in York (Fera). The time taken for this testing is dependent on the method and the pest.
The applicant can arrange for overnight courier to Fera, otherwise samples sent by PHSI should arrive at Fera within 3 working days
A sample is taken for submission to the Official Seed Testing Station (OSTS) (NIAB, in Cambridge)
Industry sampler: The sample can be sent to NIAB (OSTS, NIAB, Barn 1, Park Farm, Impington, Cambridge, CB24 9NZ) by overnight courier – this is the responsibility of the applicant to organise.
PHSI: The samples will be taken at the same time as the plant health inspection for the PC.
Samples sent by PHSI should arrive at NIAB within 3 working days.
The applicant can arrange for an overnight courier to NIAB (Cambridge).
Application for Certificate
Applicants apply online for a PCusing the eDomero service* and apply for certification using a 90b form.
Upon successful completion of the inspection and any required testing, APHA will issue the PC.
The results for the seed lot will be valid for the lifetime of the seed lot, as long as the plant health status of the seed remains unchanged. Future PCs for this lot may then be applied for based on this sample by submitting a 90b certification request.
Each PC will only have one destination, but multiple seed genera and lots to this destination can be exported on one PC.
PC are valid for 14 days from the date of issue.
NIAB tests the seed and issues the OECD Certificate & ISTA OIC - NIAB prioritises all requests for OECD certification and the issue of the OIC
On receipt of the sample, if an ISTA TZ test has been requested the ISTA OIC should normally be issued within 3 working days
Details of timescales and other tests are available from NIAB.
The OECD certificate will be issued by NIAB as soon as the seed sample has been received. For beet seed, the OECD certificate will be issued when the testing is complete, in around 10 days, and subject to any re-testing that may be required.
Notification of movement and compliance checks
The importer or the importer’s agent must register on TRACES NT and pre-notify the movement to NI. Further information is available from DAERA.
The PC is valid for 14 days from the date of issue. If the seeds have not been moved from GB by the end of the 14 days, a
re-issue must be requested by contacing PHSI.
Physical and identity checks may be undertaken in NI.
Checks may be undertaken in NI
* The eDomero service is in the process of being replaced by the Plant Health Export Service (PHES). Seeds exports will move over to this service in the future.
Under the Movement Assistance Scheme (MAS) fees are not currently incurred for APHA services in relation to the issue of PC for movements to NI
Under MAS there is currently no charge for samples taken by PHSI for OECD certification or for ISTA testing and certification, when this is solely for movement to Northern Ireland and is so stated on the Cert9. Trade samplers may charge a fee for sampling.
Moving seeds as “not finally certified” OECD seed lots
Seed that has already been certified in GB can be re-certified under the OECD Seed Scheme for export as above. As an alternative it can also be exported as “Not Finally Certified”
The “Not Finally Certified” (grey label) category can be used to move seed which has not completed certification or is not sampled and tested to obtain an OIC. Grey label seed does not require ISTA sampling and testing but must still comply with phytosanitary requirements.
For a “Not Finally Certified” lot of seed the lot identification can be either the crop identity number or a previous seed lot reference number. Labelling and sealing of the containers with grey labels must be carried out by a seed sampler authorised by APHA. An OECD-style seed lot reference number will not be issued.
The certificate takes the form of a Cert13, which is completed (rather than a Cert9) and sent to NIAB to complete the Official part. NIAB will return the fully completed form for use as a certificate confirming seed met field standards for the generation produced.
OECD certification must be completed by the receiving company and the NI authorities before seed can be marketed. An OIC will be required at this stage to confirm that EC standards have been met, and the OECD certification labels must carry the “EC rules and standards” statement.
Information on moving seed from Scotland is available from SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture).
Information on seed of material for forestry purposes is available from gov.uk.