Watch the recordings of the TOM focused online sessions. The questions and answers (Q&A) from the session are below and have been themed to help you easily find the information that you need.
The plants focused sessions provide more information on:
- The proposed Authorised Operator Status (AOS) Model
- What the TOM means for the Fresh Produce sector
- What the TOM means for the plants and horticulture sector
- TOM proposals
- TOM risk categorisations and definitions
- TOM risk categorisation timeframes
- European Union (EU) vs Rest of World (RoW) controls
- IT - IPAFFS/PEACH/ePhyto
- Costs involved with AOS and Control Point Designation
- AOS pilot timeline and registration
- Three ways of having goods checked: Border Control Posts (BCPs), Control Points (CPs) and AOS
What are the benefits of the TOM?
The TOM will reduce the level of checks on the goods that present little to negligible risk to UK biosecurity so we can focus our operational resources on goods that present higher risk. For example, the lowest risk goods will be exempt from systematic border controls and the requirement for a phytosanitary certificate. Instead, they will be subject to enhanced inland monitoring in the form of horizon scanning surveillance and evidence-led visits to premises by plant health inspectors. As these goods represent a significant percentage of plant product consignments, this will minimise friction at the border and reduce burdens on businesses, while still enabling the collection of data to feed ongoing risk-assessments.
The TOM will modernise the controls we inherited from the EU on imports in line with risk assessment in GB. We have already stepped away from the default EU level of 100% checks for certain goods, which includes plants for planting and produce with an identified pest or disease risk. Instead, checks will reduce to between 3-5% for medium risk products (for example, fresh produce) and 5-100% for the highest risk products (for example plants for planting), depending on the risk that the goods pose. This approach benefits traders by taking fuller regard of the actual intended use of the plants and plant products in question and bases the frequency of their checks proportionate to risk of their end-use or their role in commercial propagation or production.
The TOM will deliver benefits to businesses by creating a seamless new ‘digital’ border which harnesses new technologies and makes use of digital data to reduce administrative burdens for businesses. Moving away from manual paper-based phytosanitary certificates (PCs) and phasing in digitalised certificates (ePhytos) will reduce the potential for error and fraud which can be time consuming when PCs need to be replaced and cause delays in affected consignments being released.
Digitising this process will also lead to improved security and accuracy of data presented by trader and give Defra a rich data set that we can use to target our risk-based checks.
Businesses will also benefit from increased visibility over their consignments as they cross the border through real-time updates on the inspection status of consignments. This will make the process transparent and reassuring for traders.
The TOM will explore an Authorised Operator status for plant and plant product imports which will enable traders to manage their own SPS risks. The authorisation proposal will delegate responsibility to Authorised Operators to carry out their own physical and identity checks provided they complete training, demonstrate their competence, and designate their premise as a Control Point. This will allow importers to have the opportunity to have greater control on their consignments, and businesses which become an AO will benefit from flexibility and control of the location and timing of import checks.
Why did you delay the next stage of import controls?
We want to minimise disruption to industry in the long-term and ensure we are supporting supply chains. The government has always planned to make major improvements to the UK’s border, harnessing the use of technology and data, as part of our Border Strategy and ensuring that our controls are proportionate to risk. We will engage with businesses on the future implementation of controls to ensure they are implemented in the most streamlined way, minimising burdens on business.
Before we make any further changes to controls, we need to implement these improvements together with a proportionate, risk-based approach to controls to avoid serious disruption to our critical supply chains or risk disruption at ports.
Why are plant health checks important?
The 2025 UK Border Strategy sets out our vision for the UK border to be the most effective in the world. A border which embraces innovation, simplifies processes for traders and travellers and improves the security and biosecurity of the UK. The purpose of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) controls is to protect animal, plant and human health, including through food and feed safety controls. Our approach in the TOM has been to design a modern border with a simplified but effective system of biosecurity controls, that contributes maximally to economic growth and minimises both friction at the border and the administrative burden to traders and additional costs to consumers while maintaining or improving biosecurity and food and feed safety.
Our import controls are a critical element of any biosecurity system. In introducing these controls, a key balance we need to strike is between the short-term impacts on the economy and the long term adverse economic impacts - including on growth of a major disease outbreak or food safety incident – and the loss of confidence within our export markets if our new regime was deemed to fall short of international standards. Trade partners’ confidence in the standards of our animal and plant health, including official controls at the border, is essential to our ability to export. Plant and animal health are devolved matters. The GB SPS regime operates in the context of provisional UK Common Frameworks on plant health, food and feed and animal health and welfare which respect the potential for divergence and manage the ability for UK administrations to take different approaches where technically justified.
The TOM retains the global standard SPS control concepts of pre-notification, health certification and inspection at a Border Control Post that are well established mechanisms across the world for animal, public and plant health import controls. We will learn and innovate from the inherited EU model, by introducing a more sophisticated and targeted approach to official controls based on risk; simplifying and digitising certificates whenever possible; and with the intention of introducing a trader assurance model to reduce the burden of controls while maintaining effective SPS assurance controls.
The TOM sets official controls at a sufficient level to protect and enhance our biosecurity, our food and feed safety and maintain our reputation as an exporter with good regulatory standards, all benefits which contribute to public health and economic prosperity as well as biosecurity. Our overarching aim is to remove unnecessary barriers to trade, while protecting our biosecurity, reputation for high standards, consumers and businesses.
How will this speed up exports and reduce costs to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland?
Assuming the question concerns the TOM as a whole, the TOM seeks to support exporters by strengthening the import model and upholding a high biosecurity standard. This means we can protect our export markets and ensure countries have full trust in our regime.
We are removing a broad range of low-risk goods from systematic import controls, which should help speed up and reduce costs for all exporters, including to Northern Ireland and the Republic.
ePhyto will also help speed up exports for trade, with the ability to clone and autofill information across import into GB.
The TOM is consistent with all the commitments in the Windsor Framework, including continuing to guarantee NI unfettered access to the GB market. The Windsor framework frees goods sold in NI of unnecessary paperwork, checks and duties.
Why are we importing the majority of our plant products? Was this not an opportunity for domestic growers and nurseries to grow more UK plants and trees?
The UK has a strong plant sector, producing goods for domestic consumption as well as for export across the world. We want to take opportunities now the transitionperiod has ended to support UK businesses, including domestic growers and nurseries, whilst improving GB biosecurity and ensuring that GB consumers continue to enjoy access to a wide range of products.
How do we know who our local inspector is?
We cannot provide a list of individual inspectors in offices as many are working at home/remotely. However, you can contact CIT who can direct you to your local inspector. The following link contains the relevant contact details: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/animal-and-plant-health-agency/about/access-and-opening
What constitutes as a bio-secure premises?
Essentially bio-secure is a premises where material can be contained without the risk of pests escaping.
This usually includes a designated, secure and ideally rain protected holding area for plants prior to moving to main production areas or off-site.
Staff, contractor's, customers and visitors should be aware of biosecurity practices and the overall site should be kept clean through steps such as regular disinfecting of tools and machinery.
Loading and unloading areas, equipment and vehicle tyres should be washed down; hands protected from contamination and clothing washed regularly.
Infected material should be bagged and disposed of appropriately, with skips and plant waste disposal areas covered and located downwind from production, retail areas.
Control points are inland biosecure premises. More detail and guidance on what that constitutes can be found on the plant health portal here.
What and how are the categories determined based on risk?
The objective is to maintain and enhance protection against the most significant known threats, irrespective of their country of origin. We have stepped away from the default EU level of 100% checks for all so-called Article 72 goods (plants for planting and produce with an identified pest or disease risk). We will reduce this to 3-5% (for most produce) and 5-100% (for plants for planting) in GB depending on risk. This new approach, which was developed following a public consultation at the end of 2021, recognises that plants are inherently higher risk compared to fresh produce, but also recognises the intended use of plants (e.g. end use or commercial propagation/production).
Using this agreed methodology, regulated plants and plant products fall into three main risk categories, low, medium and high. The higher the risk category the greater the assurance that the applicable import controls provide. Outside of these, there are those goods which are not regulated at all, and those which pose such a threat they are banned by default and may only be imported under a derogation or following a specific risk assessment. Amongst goods for which all controls have been dropped are fruit which have no UK production and pose a negligible risk, like citrus and mangoes. These goods will still be monitored by a horizon scanning regime.
What is the procedure of moving up AND down of fresh produce between the risk groups low and medium?
This risk assessment considers factors such as the prevalence of relevant pests and diseases, likelihood of commodities acting as a pathway for pest and disease introduction, and confidence in the exporting country’s production standards and health controls. The UK-wide Plant Health Risk Group will have continuing oversight of risk categorisation and alter categorisation as circumstances require e.g., as a result of intelligence about emerging risks.
Data informing the categorisation is constantly monitored and the allocation of commodities to categories is dynamic and subject to change on the analysis of risk. Commodities could be moved to another category quickly if the risk dictates, or over a longer timeframe. Overall, the risk categorisation is intended to be stable and provide consistency. However, the ability to apply emergency control measures on any commodities which pose an imminent risk to human, animal or plant health will be retained.
Can you confirm stone fruit will be low risk? It states the plant being medium, same with tomatoes?
If you were bringing in a plant for planting, the goods will require phytosanitary certificate and pre-notification and will be classed as high-risk. If you are importing part of plant that are Prunus such as foliage or leaves then they will be classed as medium-risk and will require phytosanitary certification from the 31st October 2023. If you’re bringing in the fruit of Prunus(EU origin good) they will be classified as low-risk and won’t require certification or prenotification.
What are the criteria for the risk categories for frozen fruit & vegetables & Juices & Purees. Are they based on processing and packaging and microbiological levels?
The UK’s interpretation are that PCs are not required for plant products such as fruit and vegetables that have been processed and packaged to the point that they no longer pose a biosecurity risk. This decision has been taken following risk analysis. Processed and packaged fruit and veg (e.g. soups, salads, sandwiches, frozen material) generally do not fall within plant health import controls, or require a PC and pre-notification via IPAFFs. To note, this response applies only to plants and plant products from a phytosanitary perspective. Therefore, this response does not relate to animal products, and equally doesn’t extend to human health.
Can you please clarify what categorises a ‘plant for planting’? Does this put all wholesale and retail plants into the high-risk category?
A plant is any living part of the plant. Plants for planting is defined as a plant that is planted or intended to remain planted or to be re-planted and grown on in any way i.e., sustained. This would include all wholesale and retail plants in the high-risk category.
We would like more info specifically for the Christmas tree industry. Cut Christmas Trees over 3 metres are categorised as High Risk. What about those below 3 metres?
Conifers from the EU under 3 metres will be classified as medium risk, while conifers that are over 3 metres and imported from the EU will be classified as TOM high-risk and hence subject to 100% checks.
Is soil from the EU prohibited?
Soil or growing medium as a commodity from all third countries outside of the EU is prohibited. Traders need authorisation to bring in soil outside of the EU. More information can be found on the Plant Health Portal here: Moving specified plants, plant pests, pathogens and soil - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Will RoW flowers that have cleared Customs in the EU and then moved to be GB be classed as EU goods?
Yes, if the goods are issued with an EU phytosanitary certificate then the goods will be subject to the EU risk categorisation.
Plants for planting are in high-risk category for all species including Cryptocoryne, Hygrophila and Vallisneria, is that correct?
All plants for planting are considered high-risk.
Which category do oil seed rape and corn fall into?
Grain of the aforementioned species aren’t regulated and so enter GB without phytosanitary. If the aforementioned species are seeds intended for planting then, oil seed rape (Brassica napus) is classed as high-risk and currently requires pre-notifications and a phytosanitary certificate if it is of EU origin. Corn (Zea mays) seed from the EU is classed as medium-risk and will require a phytosanitary certificate from 31 October 2023. Corn seed from the EU has required pre-notification since 01 January 2022.
Have you got a date for categorising risk from RoW?
We expect an announcement in next couple of months. We are aligning the timing with the publication of risk categories for animal products.
Will the physical inspection of lorries, crossing to the UK with EU fresh produce, be physically checked more often from the 1st of October?
There will be no physical inspections of lorries at the border until 31 January 2024, when the Place of Destination (PoD) scheme closes and checks move to Border Control Posts and inland Control Points. Check prior to importing whether the fresh produce falls into low, medium or high risk.
When do you expect risk assessments will be completed for low-risk goods? Will the risk categorisation be regularly reviewed in the future and at what frequency.
Risk categorisation remains dynamic. The Imports Threat Horizon Scanning subgroup will monitor the imports and inception data to inform the dynamic risk assessment and inspection rates.
Further reviews are being undertaken to ensure the controls associated remain proportionate based on the risks they propose.
When will we get the details of inspection rates for high and medium risk seeds for planting?
This was published on the 28th April and can be found on the Plant Health Portal
How will the import of non-EU origin seeds for planting that have entered free circulation with the EU be treated? Will they be classed as EU as they are now?
Once material has entered the EU and has been cleared for free trade within the EU – it then becomes an EU seed and is subject to the import controls of EU material entering the UK.
How does this effect seed import for example, pepper and tomatoes and exporting veg seed to Ireland?
In terms of imports, the testing and controls would be the same whether it comes from the EU or third countries. If the seed has entered the UK and custom cleared there, it would need to fulfil the import requirements of the EU if it was then to be exported to the Republic of Ireland. The importers in GB would have to decide whether they transit through GB to Republic of Ireland. Inthe case of such a transit, the goods effectively never enter the control of UK authorities – but if they were to import and customs clear the goodsin GB,they would then need certification for an onward journey to the Republic of Ireland.
When will the requirements for cut flowers from third countries be published? EU and third country cut flowers are combined in shipments from The Netherlands.
There could be changes to risk categories in the future as risks are reassessed. As it stands, there is no change to the risk categorisation of cut flowers from third countries outside of the EU. Therefore, cut flowers that require pre-notification and a PC (effectively medium risk) will remain this way. Cut flowers from the EU that are categorised as medium risk will require a PC from October 2023 and inspected from late January 2024.
What are the main changes to phytosanitary process to and from EU?
The main points and relevant dates are:
From the end of October 2023, plants and plant products that are categorized as ‘medium-risk' will require a phytosanitary certificate upon entry into GB from the EU. These new controls will be appropriately weighted against the risk posed to GB.
January 2024 is the key date for a lot of the main changes. It will see the introduction of documentary checks, physical and Identity checks on these medium-risk goods beginning,.Low-risk plants and plant products from the EU will be exempt from systematic controls at the border, this includes the requirement for a phytosanitary certificate and pre-notification.
Checks of high-risk plants and plant products will move from Places of Destination (PoDs) to BCPs and CPs in January 2024, at which point both high and medium risk plants and plant products will be be subject to checks (physical, identity and documentary). January 24 also sees the commencements of pilots for Authorised Operator Status (AOS) scheme.
Finally, the TOM commits to fully digitise phytosanitary certificates for imports and exports, as trade partner readiness allows, enabling the direct exchange of data.
ePhyto is a service that allows exporting competent authorities to send electronic copies of phytosanitary certificates (PCs) to the importing countries relevant plant health authority.
Typically, all hard copies of the PC are required to physically travel with the consignment. An inspector would then inspect this to make sure all the information is correct, and nothing has been forged. This adds time, cost, and logistical difficulties to a fast-moving industry, and industry is keen to use ePhyto.
Under the COVID easements both GB and the EU allowed for scanned copies to be sent between the countries, on the basis the hard copy was sent to the APHA office in York as soon as feasibly possible.
ePhyto is planned to be built into the capability of the new IT services, removing the need for hard copies all together.
What are the benefits of ePhyto?
ePhyto will provide a globally harmonised approach for phytosanitary certification, in accordance with an adopted International Standard for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM). ePhytos will bring about a range of benefits, including:
Reduced potential for fraudulent certificates.
Reduced data entry and validation activities by national plant protection organizations (NPPO) improving efficiencies;
Improved security in the transmission of certificates when compared with paper certificates;
Reduced delays in receiving replacement phytosanitary certificates when required;
Use of existing systems in facilitating electronic certification reduces development costs;
Harmonising the IT element of avoids the need for technical negotiation on IT systems when NPPOs are agreeing to use ePhyto for trade between them;
Potential to link with the World Customs Organization “Single Window” initiative and to harmonize codes and processes as well as other international E-systems; and
Use of harmonized international e-business standards between governments (UN/CEFACT).
In combination of ePhyto with the cloning technology the intention is to provide a more efficient service for users, there should be no direct additional costs for using ePhytos instead of the paper- based certificates.
Will the implementation of ePhytos be phased-in/can we still use paper certificates?
ePhyto will be implemented in a phased period where both paper and digital certificates will be accepted to ensure a smooth transition to paperless certificates. This will need to be agreed with individual countries as they are onboarded to ePhyto.
There will be a phased roll out of ePhyto with a focus on countries that we exchange a large volume of certificates with, followed by a continual addition of countries that are able to exchange ePhyto certificates.
Yes, contingency plans are being developed in the event there are any issues with the issuance of ePhytos and this will be communicated to stakeholders in the event of any outage.
Will there be any introductory training available before ePhytos are released?
Guidance materials will be made available once the capability is available in IPAFFS. There are also introductory videos available from the International Plant Protection Convention’s website.
Currently we receive Phytos before submitting to PEACH/IPAFFS. Will it still be possible to amend mistakes on ePhytos before submitting an ePhyto?
When there are issues are identified at the BCP or CP in regards to documentation, material may be held for up to five days while the issue is corrected. The goods in question will not be released until the mistake is corrected.
We’ve been told people will move from PEACH to IPAFFS in ‘the summer’ – can we get a better idea of a time for this and will PEACH disappear altogether?
Traders will be encouraged to register for IPAFFS from the beginning of June 2023 with the ePhyto feature likely to be available from summer 2023. Traders will have the opportunity to transition from PEACH to IPAFFS in June and can do this over several months.
There will be a phased decommissioning of PEACH, although in the short term we will be running the system in parallel with IPAFFS. There will be elements of PEACH that will likely be closed at the end of 2023. Traders will be given plenty of time before PEACH is decommissioned completely.
Are the EU prepared to produce these ePhytos? Perpignan have 2 officers for the whole area, who work 9am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
As part of the TOM, we are engaging with EU Member States to ensure they have their processes and resources in place to deal with the certification requirements.
When will the single trade window system be up and running?
STW is being developed iteratively. The intention is effectively to reduce the amount of information traders need to input when moving goods into and out of the UK.
When will we get written detail? i.e., the 7 touch points where PC are passed around, the IPAFFS functionality timelines?
The new IPAFFS functionality is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2023. Traders will be encouraged to start to pre-notify on IPAFFS in June and we intend to have ePhyto functionality available in the summer. We will have business readiness communications available in the run up to that delivery period.
Will we be using IPAFFS by October 31 instead of PEACH to pre-notify APHA
Yes, we will be encouraging users to start pre-notifying on IPAFFS from June 2023. Traders will be able to submit pre-notifications within IPAFFS from June, making use of enhanced features that are aimed at reducing the time spent inputting information into the system.
Training and guidelines on how to run this process, including how to register, will become available in June 2023.
Can we request that variety name be a requirement on IPAFFs for ware potatoes to assist with categorising any risk associated with consignments?
As we are continually iterating on improvements for IPAFFS to aid users. Further investigation into this feature will be required before any development can proceed.
If a digital phytosanitary certificate is issued and a consignment is exported via a truck from Spain do you still need signed certificate from us?
Digital certificates, in this case ePhyto for plants and plant products, will have the appropriate assurances and digital security to ensure that the phytosanitary certificate we receive was issued by the competent authority from the exporting country. There will be no need to provide a signed paper-based certificate in parallel with the electronic certificate.
Will the Republic of Ireland use ePhytos
The Republic of Ireland (RoI) will use ePhyto and have started testing its use. Unfortunately, as RoI use their own national system rather than TRACES NT as an export module we will be unable to accept ePhytos to begin with.
RoI have been identified as country that, GB in regards to electronic certification for plants and plants products, will look to engage with as part of the next phase of introducing ePhytos from other countries. In the meantime, RoI will be able to make use of the continued easement that a scanned copy of the original phytosanitary certificate can accompany the load, with the original certificate being provided to APHA in England and Wales and SASA in Scotland as soon as feasibly possible.
What charges will be introduced as part of the new proposal and how those charges will be collected?
There is a new harmonised regime for all EU and non-EU countries, for plants for planting and a flat rate fee for some commodity types which were introduced in July 2022. As part of the TOM, there will be charges, depending on what import journey is taken: there will be costs associated with using a BCP, and fees involved in gaining Authorised Operator Status (based on a cost recovery basis for training and auditing). There will, however, be no AOS charges to take part in the pilot. More information on BCP and AOS charges will be available in due course.
There will also be costs associated with being a control point, though the cost will depend on each facility. CP requirements are scalable based on type and volume of commodities imported and adaptation of existing premises should be possible. There is flexibility in how a requirement is fulfilled as long as the overall objective of managing biosecurity risks of inspections is achieved.
What does it cost to become a Control Point (CP)?
The costs will vary for each Control Point designation. Defra requirements for CPs are generic and requirements can be fulfilled based on the type, volume of import commodities and site location. The applicant will be allocated an inspector to provide technical advice on an applicant’s proposal throughout the designation process. Most CPs so far have met requirements through the adaptation of existing premises such as a warehouse or other building. There is usually flexibility in how a requirement is fulfilled as long as the overall objective of managing biosecurity risks of inspections is achieved. Defra / APHA operate the designation process without charge to applicants.
What are the costs involved in gaining Authorised Operator Status?
We are looking into a fee structure based on cost recovery for the services APHA and Scottish Government provide across GB. Participants will not be subject to AOS fees during the pilot. However, if the pilot is successful, it is expected the AOS will be subject to fees. The statutory plant health fees for documentary, identity, and physical import inspections, will continue to apply for the participants of AOS during the pilot. These fees will be charged as they are currently.
If you decided to train two people as AOS, does this double the cost?
Training will likely be online, module-based training with onsite inspection training. Then a face-to-face assessment for the import checks to be carried out. The detail of training and fees associated is still to be worked through.
If a business in the pilot is successful and then become AOS, what ongoing costs might they then incur beyond the pilot?
Assuming the pilot is successful, and AOS is rolled-out to trade there are likely to be ongoing costs. For example audit assurance fees that APHA/SASA will charge for and periodic AOS refresher training costs. The processes for AOS including associated fees are still being worked through and more details will be available in due course.
In the event the Authorised Person leaves the company with AOS, then there are likely to be costs to reappoint and train another Authorised Person. Businesses should consider succession planning if there is only one Authorised Person conducting their day-to-day checks.
If an AO calls in a PHSI under suspicion of a finding, is that visit charged for?
Fees and charges are still be worked through and more information will be available in due course.
How can a business decide to be a CP and then an AO if they don't know the costs for either AO audits & training nor BCP user charges and potential wait time?
The majority of BCPs will be owned and run by commercial organisations such as port operators, and user fees will be published before they become operational.
Each BCP will have their own operating hours and SLAs that are based on trade levels and demand. These will vary by site and region across England and Wales and will be published shortly. Operating hours for many sites may extend outside business hours and the hours will be published on gov.uk.
AOS fees will be available in due course.
When will the timeline for expression of interest for the AOS Pilot come out?
We are currently designing the AOS process. We are scheduled to release the EOI application in summer 2023 in preparation for the testing phase in autumn 2023 and the pilot phase from January 2024 onwards.
How do we register for the AOS pilot scheme?
There will be an application for Expressions of Interest (EOI) for the pilot. To ensure the pilot covers a representative range of sectors and businesses there will likely be a selection process.
At what point of the Pilot will APHA/SASA publish process documentation / guidance?
Ahead of any EOI applications, we will put out clear guidance on AOS for those who are interested in being part of the testing and pilot, so traders know what is expected of them. More information will be available ahead of the EOI.
The processes and scope will then need to be reviewed and possibly adapted following the pilot phase.
Will you take AOS pilot applications after the pilot starts?
No. The group involved in the pilot will be selected from the EOIs to get a representative sample of the sectors. If you do want to be part of the pilot, you will have to submit an EOI. To ensure the pilot covers a representative range of sectors and businesses there is likely to be a selection process.
What is the audit schedule?
The audit is an assurance function – Authorised Operators will be audited periodically to ensure AOS works as intended. No decisions have been made yet on the frequency of audits, however, we expect that the frequency will be higher during pilot and the initial stages of roll-out (if this goes ahead).
Use of PODS- ceasing from January 2024 but Control Points will not be introduced until later in the year. How do we ensure there are no delays?
The Place of Destination (PoD) scheme will come to an end when high-priority plants and plant products(termed high-risk under the TOM), alongside medium risk, move to BCP or CPs on 31 January 2024. CPs are an existing facilitation, and the designation process has been operating for several years.
Applications to become a CP can be submitted anytime. The CP expression of interest forms are already available – you can email Defra or Scottish Government. It is a business decision as to whether you desireto be a designated Control Point, but it is a key criterion for AOS. The process takes upwards of 3 months.
Until AOS is up and running, APHA/SASA will be able to carry out your inspections at your CP within their SLA.
AOS pilot in January 2024 and certification are being introduced 31 October. What’s the reasoning for this order?
The draft TOM was produced and developed in collaboration with stakeholders, therefore the proposals and timelines have had industry input. We want to continue engaging with stakeholders and testing the model in draft form, so encourage you to submit any feedback on the timelines via gov.uk.
Will there be audits of AOS’s to ensure they are doing the ‘right thing’?
Yes, there will be audits. The audit scheme is the assurance function of AOS, to ensure compliance and conformity to the requirements are maintained. The frequency of audits will likely be announced in time for the pilot of AOS and the testing of the scheme.
’Designated Authorised’ and ‘Responsible Person’ – will have board level authority” – does this mean someone at board level of the company?
An Authorised Person is the person who will carry out the import checks as part of the AOS. The role of the Responsible Person is still being developed, but it’slikely the person who is the primary contact and has overall responsibility for maintaining that status.
We will provide further guidance on this in due course.
Are the only benefits of AOS the ability to perform own checks? Will there ever be less frequent checks if you hold the status?
A key benefit to gaining AOS is providing flexibility and control over when and where you’re carrying out import checks, at a time that suits the trader.
There is no intention to reduce the number or level of checks. Inspections need to be carried out at the same frequency as a plant health inspector would do. A benefit is that you will be able to do that at a time that suits your business, potentially out of normal business hours.
Can Control Points be anywhere in the UK and are they intended to take over checks from BCP?
A CP can be anywhere in GB. CPs are an existing facilitation for inland plant health checks. CPs are not intended to take over checks from a BCP.
Essentially there are 3 main options available for traders importing plants and plant products:
checks completed at a BCP by APHA/SASA;
designate your premises as a CP and APHA/SASA carry out inspections within their SLA;
In the longer term, designate your premises as a CP with the intention to becoming authorised as an Authorised Operator (when AOS is rolled out) which will allow you to carry out your own physical and identity checks at a time that suits your business.
Your business model will determine what route is most appropriate for your business.
Is a company with an AOS allowed to open a Control Point outside of the UK?
Control Points are part of the import system so can only be established in the GB for GB imports. They can’t be established outside of the UK as UK plant health legislation can only be enforced in GB.
Would we need to ‘own’ the bio secure premises as the Importer of Record in order to fulfil AOS? Or could we use third part premises?
As long as they meet criteria of AOS and have CP designation they can then apply for AOS. The criteria does not specify where in the imports supply chain the authorisation sits.
Can EU established companies become AO certified, and what are the potential benefits for EU exporters?
Operators need to be based in GB. This is standard and this has always been the case as we can’t enforce our import legislation in another country. An Authorised Operator can be any business in the GB supply chain.
For some operators it might be useful due to their operating hours i.e., 24/7. The benefit is about flexibility and control.
Alternatively, you could choose to beaCP with APHA/SASA carrying out the inspections within their SLA.
Do the same inspection rates apply for product arriving in a CP as in a BCP, and if so, how do you prove this?
Yes, the same inspection rates apply for a CP and a BCP, whether or not the checks are conducted by APHA or an AO. AOS is not about reducing inspection rates.
Following pre-notification in IPAFFS (notification system),a decision will be made by the system about selection for inspection – based on the inspection rate for that commodity.
As an AO will be inspecting their own imports, keeping the right records of what is being inspected will be imperative. During the training, the AO will be informed what records need to be kept. APHA/SASA will assure that the system is working properly through audits.
How will we notify that our incoming consignments intend to stop at an inland CP instead of a BCP?
Your control point will be listed on IPAFFS, therefore, you will select that destination point during pre-notification.
Under AOS your CP will be able to be selected from the drop-down list.
May an AOS holder make use of other CPs that aren’t under their control?
We are currently exploring what the various models will look like.Under AOS the authorisation applies toa CP andthe Authorised Person(s) (APs) within that facility.
Further detail will be coming out on what is permissible.
Can we apply for UK plant passports at source in the EU or ROW, before they arrive at the CPs? Or do they need to apply at the CP if that is the end of transit?
UK plant passports are required for all commercial movement of plants for planting, down to final user domestically within GB. The UK plant passport regime provides assurance and traceability of all commercial movements of plants for planting down to the final user.
UK plant passports can only be issued by authorised professional operators in the UK. Authorised professional operators receive annual inspections from the competent authority which provide assurance they are competent to issue UK plant passports.
UK plant passports are not applied for by the business to NPPOs like phytosanitary certificates(PC). If you import goods to the UK under a phytosanitary certificate, you only need to issue a UK plant passport for your goods if:
you’re moving them to another professional operator
you’re selling them to final users (those buying for personal use) by means of distance contract, for example online
you’re moving them to another of your own premises which is more than 10 miles from the premises where the consignment arrived
the phytosanitary status of the consignment changes, for example, if it has been grown on, or if it has been reconfigured, for example, 2 plants in separate pots have been planted in a new pot together
Will consignments destined for a control point still be subject to random checks at the border?
Any checks for SPS for plant and plant products that require inspection will be visible on your dashboard. Once you submit your pre-notification, whatever requires a physical inspection will need to be inspected at the CP or BCP.
Does an inland control point count as end of transit for goods and therefore do goods require a UK plant passport for onward delivery to retail sites intended as the end destination?
Once your goods have reached the Control Point and undertaken any required checks, you will need plant passport authorisation if they are moving onwards to a retail site. Find out more about plant passports on gov.uk.
What will happen at BCPs built at ports with PIF funding?
Plant health checks will continue at BCPs. AOS and CPs are an additional facilitation and option open to trade for the imports of plants and plant products.
It will be a commercial decision for the BCP owner to determine how to best utilise any BCP. Any modifications will need to be made in line with APHA/OCR rules for designation. Port Infrastructure Fund (PIF) funded ports should contact their Cabinet Office Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for more information and consult with them as to how the physical facilities necessary for meeting present and future operational needs for safety, security and biosecurity controls are retained.
Point of entry (POE) operators will make their own decisions regarding charging models and rates. For cost recovery questions related to the Port Infrastructure Fund, POE operators should contact their Cabinet Office SPOC.
Will seed potatoes be allowed to continue from the BCP to their destination before the results of a statutory Ring Rot Brown Rot lab test is received?
We are still working through this; we have a team looking at the operation of the BCPs. We are aware of the need for material to move rapidly through the BCPs, so there is a consistent flow of traffic. With that said, BCPs will all have facilities where material that is at risk can be held safely. We can’t comment at this stage about seed potatoes specifically.
Will there be any additional delay in documentary ,ID and physical checks for high priority goods once we have moved away from PODs and to BCPs?
BCPs have long been used and managed for imports inspections of goods from non-EU countries and they are an essential component of UK’s biosecurity regime.
We’ve been recruiting staff to the BCP workforce to increase resourcing, in line with demand for EU products. In addition, APHA have contingencies in place to help manage the flow of goods and inspections at BCPs.
Will the four-hour window for inspection remain at BCPs? Will goods be released for onward travel if inspections do not take place within this window?
Essentially the four-hour SLA will remain in place. However, the four-hour window is the maximum amount of time; generally, the turnaround for inspection is much quicker than that. If BCPs are overwhelmed, APHA have contingencies in place to manage the flow, such as auto clearance options as well.
If plants are held at BCP for a lab test will the transport trolleys also be held? They are returnable and in a centralised rental scheme, how can they be collected?
Samples are very often time critical, and the lab ensures that diagnoses are carried out as quickly as possible. Defra and Fera work together on an ongoing basis with the aim of further reducing diagnostic times by putting trials in place to test new technologies, update diagnostic protocols and review best practices. With more detail of the specifics, we may be able to consider this matter further.
How do we know which BCP the goods will arrive at?
It is up to the importer themselves to arrange the logistics of the importation and nominate the BCP they are going to use. This is a step in the prenotification process.
If an inspection is required, the goods have to be presented at the BCP that has been selected on the pre-notification.