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BETA Your feedback will help us improve the UK Plant Health Information Portal

What does the Border Target Operating Model mean for plants?

The UK government has published the Border Target Operating Modelknown as the BTOM, which sets out a world-leading model for the import of Sanitary and Phytosanitary goods, including plants and plant products, underpinned by an intelligent approach to risk management. The BTOM has been developed following extensive engagement with the border industry and businesses across the UK. It incorporates feedback from the draft BTOM which was published in April 2023The BTOM implements a new global risk-based approach to import checks which is targeted and proportionate. Regulated plants and plant products have been categorised into high, medium and low risk categories for imports from the EU and will be categorised for non-EU countries goods shortly. Controls are appropriately weighted against the biosecurity risks posed to GB: the higher the risk category of a plant or plant product, the more biosecurity assurances we need, in the form of import controls. There will be plants and plant products which undergo fewer inspections or are not regulated at all. Certain goods will remain prohibited entirely.  Inspection frequencies will then remain responsive to risk and changed according to assessed biosecurity threats. We will aim to give trade sufficient notice of any change to risk categorisation and inspection frequencies.  

If you import certain plants and plant products from the EU to GB, you need to start preparing for the new plant health import requirements coming into force from 31January 2024 and 30 April 2024. Sign up to a sector specific online training session to find out more about the actions you need to take. 

What are the new requirements? 

BTOM High Risk goods 

[This category includes all plants for planting, potatoes, used farm machinery, certain seed, and timber] 

  • High risk plants and plant products and other objects require pre-notification and a phytosanitary certificate (PC) when being imported from the EU, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. In accordance with the new rate of checks introduced in July 2022,they will then be subject to checks at a frequency of 5-100%, depending on the risk, in line with similar non-EU goods. 

  • From 30 April 2024, high-risk plants and plant products must come through a Border Control Post (BCP)or Control Point (CP) where identity and physical checks will be carried out. Checks will no longer take place at Points of Destination (PoDs). 

BTOM Medium risk goods 

[This category includes plant products with an identified pest/disease risk] 

  • From 31 January 2024,all imports of medium-risk plants and plant products (from the EU will need to have a phytosanitary certificate upon entry. These goods will continue to require pre-notification on IPAFFS. . 

  • From 31 January 2024, all imports of medium risk-plants and plant products from Ireland (IE) will require a phytosanitary certificate and pre-notification on IPAFFS.   

  • From 30 April 2024, documentary checks and physical and identity checks at the border will be introduced for medium-risk goods imported from the EU. In line with the reduced frequency of checks, checks will have a baseline of 3% for EU imports and 5% for non-EU imports. This may be subject to change in specific cases, where additional risk factors apply. 

BTOM Low risk goods 

[This category is listed by exception for goods not listed elsewhere. It includes fresh produce which carries no identified pest/disease risk to GB] 

  • From 31 January 2024, EU low-risk goods will be exempt from systematic controls at the border and so will not require a phytosanitary certificate or pre-notification. This includes most fruit and vegetablesInstead, they will be subject to enhanced inland monitoring via surveillance at the most appropriate locations and times, and evidence-led visits to premises by plant health inspectors.  

  • From 30 April 2024, imports from non-EU countriewill begin to simplify. This will include the removal of phytosanitary certificates and routine checks on low-risk plants and plant products from non-EU countries 

Changes to these categories will continue to be made in response to the risk situation. 

What do you need to do? 

If you are a GB importer: 

  • Work with your EU exporters to be ready for the incoming certification requirements from January 2024for medium-risk goods. 

  • Find an appropriate BCP and start planning your route for the SPS check changes coming into force from April2024.Alternatively, consider becoming CP designated and have your checks done on-site. A BCP and CP locations and mapfor Plants and Plant Products is available on the Plant Health Portal. 

If you are an EU exporter: 

  • Contact the competent authority in your country to find a local plant health inspector to be prepared for the certification requirements coming into force from January 2024 for medium-risk goods. 

  • Work with your GB importers to decide the best route of entry for the exported high-risk goods 

Further developments to the import regime: 


  • We will be replacing manual paper-based phytosanitary certificates with digitalised certificates (ePhytos).  

  • This will include removing the 6-7 physical touchpoints where a phytosanitary certificate is passed from one representative to another. 

  • This change will be phased in for imports, starting with the trade partners who have the highest volume of trade with GB. 

  • Digitising this process will reduce the potential for error and fraud and give Defra rich data set that we can use to target our risk-based checks. 

Automated checking  

  • We will explore automating the document checking process.  

  • Traders who use ePhyto will have some of their digital information checked with a standardised set of import requirements through an automated comparison. Any issues identified through this automated check will result in referral to a desk-based inspector. 


Assisted prenotification 

  • We will focus on reducing the requirement on traders to input of information into IPAFFS where it is readily available to upload through other trusted sources.  

  • We will enable traders to extract some of the information from an ePhyto and use it to prepopulate the CHED PP when pre-notifying. 

  •  CSV File Bulk upload will mainly be used for consignments with multiple goods which Importers have the capability to upload their commodity data in CSV format of up to 500 commodity linesThis feature is available in IPAFFS. 

  • We have introduced an intelligent search function in IPAFFS which will allow traders to search for a genus and species in addition to a commodity code.  

  • Solutions will be aimed at businesses of varying sizes, expertise and capability will be catered for, with a view to integrating this approach into the wider Government plan for a Single Trade Window (STW). 

Front line diagnostics  

  • We are exploring how on-site diagnostic testing technology can be used to reducthe waiting times of consignments at the border. We will be training APHA inspectors to carry out official tests on trade consignments using pest and pathogens detection technology. 


  • We will remove the requirement for a Common Health Entry Document (CHED), pre-notification, for plants and plant products and other objects that are under transit or transhipment using the GB land bridge. This would remove the burden of notification requirements for trade for goods and pose minimal biosecurity risk as the goods final destination is not GB and therefore not be subject to routine inspections. 

Streamlining the inspection process 

  • In July 2022, we introduced a new harmonised regime for EU and non-EU countries. This ensured that import check frequencies on medium-risk and high-risk plants and plant products imported from EU and non-EU countries is appropriate to the degree of risk certain commodities pose to GB biosecurity. Instead of the default EU level of 100% checks, inspection frequencies have been reduced for most goods, and only the highest risk goods receive a 100% physical inspection. 

  • We will be updating our systems to ensure that that these consignments are appropriately risked by the risk engine.   

  • We will also improve the rules for the selection of consignments that contain higher risk commodities. The new method will prioritise inspections of commodities which pose the greatest biosecurity risk.  

Authorised Operator Status(AOS) 

  • We will explore the introduction of a delegated authority model for the checks of plant and plant product imports, which would allow eligible traders to manage their own SPS risks. We are calling this approach Authorised Operator Status (AOS). 

  • It proposes to delegate responsibility to Authorised Operators (AOs) to carry out their own physical and identity checks, provided they meet certain eligibility criteria.  

  • This will allow importers to benefit from flexibility over the location and timing of their import checks.  

  • Defra will be testing elements of AOS in Autumn 2023. If this is successful, we will then run a live pilot to test the end-to-end process of operating as an AO in Q2 2024.   

  • Businesses who take part in this testing and pilot will need to meet certain criteria including being designated as a Control Point (CP). We will release details soon on how businesses can apply to be involved in this.  

  • AOS needs to be piloted to evaluate feasibility, both for the trader's operational competency and biosecurity risksThe aim is for this to be a Great Britain-wide scheme.

  • AOS is a proposal, and the decision on whether to implement AOS will be taken following the pilot.