Importing organic goods into Great Britain: Organic certificate of inspection process from 1 January 2021

Friday’s Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) trade update provides clarity on the next steps for Export into Great Britain as the exit date looms and transition period from the European Union ends 31 December 2020.

Great Britain has introduced a manual Certificate of Inspection (“COI”) system for imports of Organic produce that will apply to all consignments shipped from a third country on or after 1 January 2021.

The following advice was received in relation to this matter from Great Britain’s Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (“DEFRA”):

Process for consignments due to depart from now until 31 December 2020:

DEFRA has advised that certified organic goods departing from now up to the 31st of December 2020 need to be registered on TRACES and have an EU COI.

The COI will be checked and endorsed upon arrival in Great Britain.

DEFRA has advised that Great Britain border officials will lose access to the EU TRACES system on 1 January 2021.

This means that for consignments arriving after this date, the Great Britain importer will need to complete import documentation outside of the EU TRACES system and provide the documentation and original hardcopy COI to the relevant Great Britain Port Health Authority, prior to the consignment’s arrival.

 Process for consignments due to depart from 1 January 2021:

From 1 January 2021, Great Britain will introduce a manual COI system and will require an original hardcopy COI to accompany organic consignments to Great Britain.

The COI will need to be endorsed by an Approved Certifying Organisation and sent to the relevant Great Britain Port Health Authority in order for the import clearance process to be undertaken.

Given the limited availability of courier services, DEFRA has advised that an electronic copy of the COI can be emailed to the relevant Great Britain Port Health Authority while the original hardcopy COI is in transit.

What happens if an Organic consignment arrives in GB without an endorsed GB COI (either the original or a copy)

If an Organic consignment arrives in GB without an endorsed GB COI (either the original or a copy), the consignment cannot be cleared as organic.

The goods must be either:

  • Re-labelled, removing all references to organics
  • Re-exported as non-organic OR
  • destroyed

Processing your Great Britain (“GB”) COI from 1 January 2021

From the 1st of January 2021 you will need to complete a GB COI in addition to your OPC for any exports to Great Britain. Please contact your Certification Body to ensure you clearly understand the new process for export into Great Britain prior to dispatch.

Download the Great Britain Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs FAQ sheet here.

Should you have any queries regarding organic export market access, please contact our Chief Technical Officer, Owen Gwilliam.

For more information and to download a copy of the GB COI template, please see link below: