How To Import Dairy Products Into Canada

Your how to guide on dairy imports into Canada

grape and cheese platter

If you are importing cheese, ice cream, milk, powdered dairy and other dairy products into Canada, you must know what government parties are involved, what regulations must be followed, and the fundamental aspects of dairy imports.

Dairy imports into Canada are highly regulated and carry a high rate of import duty. The Canadian dairy industry is protected against high volume imports of foreign dairy products.

Parties Involved:

  • Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
  • Global Affairs Canada
  • Customs Broker
  • Carrier

Main Regulations:

Import Fundamentals:

  • You will be acting as the Importer of Record. Therefore, you are the party ultimately responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the import declaration; as well as, the payment of applicable duties and taxes into Canada
  • Duty and tax must be paid upon importation into Canada.
  • The rate of duty is determined by the tariff of the commodity being imported, the value of the goods and, the origin of the goods.
  • Certain import documentation is required to be presented to the border services officer at the port of entry.
  • Your import may be subject to a customs review, inspection or audit prior to, or after the importation. Additional fees may be levied by the Government of Canada for these services.
  • You are required to keep your import records for six years following the date of import and can be audited by Customs at any point during this time.

FAQ: Dairy Imports

What Is Dairy Quota?
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Quota is a term used to describe how much of a certain volume or amount of product is allowed to be imported at a reduced or eliminated duty rate. When importing dairy products into Canada, quota often comes into play. Using Free Trade Agreements such as the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) or or the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA| CUSMA | T-Mec) can allow international dairy manufacturers access to the Canadian market.
Want to learn more about Free Trade Agreements?
Read our post Enjoy Duty Free Imports With Free Trade Agreements
How Does Dairy Quota Work?
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A certain amount of dairy quota is allocated each year. For example, in 2019, under the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union (EU), 850,000 kilograms of cheese is allowed to be imported from the EU into Canada under quota. Therefore the cheese that is imported under quota will be allowed in at a reduced duty rate. Quota is issued to dairy importers by Global Affairs Canada. This application requests that a specific quantity of dairy be allocated to that importer. Once the total allocation of quota issued by shipment specific permits is reached, all further dairy imports will be subject to the regular rate of duty.

How Much Does Dairy Quota Cost?
How Much Does It Cost To Obtain A Dairy Permit?
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The cost of the permit is based on the value of the product in Canadian dollars. For example, if the value of the dairy product you are importing is $500.00 CAD, the cost of the permit from Global Affairs Canada would be $10.00. Below is a full list of values for duty and corresponding permit cost, all in Canadian dollars.:

Value For Duty                Permit Charge
$ 0 - $ 999.99                   $ 10.00
$ 1,000 - $ 4,999.99        $ 14.00
$ 5,000 - $ 9,999.99        $ 18.00
$ 10,000 - $ 19,999.99    $ 22.00
$ 20,000 – Greater         $ 26.00

If you are using a Customs Broker to obtain the permits for you, additional fees will apply.

How Do You Apply For A Safe Food For Canadians Licence?
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You can apply for a cheese import license directly with CFIA through their online portal. You will  need to fill out an application and provide payment information. CFIA requires information such as the name of the importer, the supplier, country of origin, shipped from origin, the requested port, date of entry into Canada, the quantity of product, and the value.

Do I Need A Zoosanitary Certificate?
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Certain dairy products produced from animals that are subject to foot-and-mouth disease or originating from certain countries must be accompanied by a Zoosanitary Certificate. This document certifies the country of origin from which the product was produced and the animals from which they were derived. For full details please visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s website.

What Are The Specific Grade Standards That Must Be Met For Dairy?
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The specific grade standards that must be met are for certain dairy products.
These products are:
Cheddar cheese
Butter and butter products
Dry milk products

The grades are:
Canada 1
Canada 2
Canada 3: A processing grade for particular bulk goods

Please refer to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Import and Interprovincial Requirements for Dairy Products - Overview for more information on dairy grade standards.

What Are The Specific Labelling Requirements For Dairy?
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According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, information such as the common name, lactose content, additional terms such as whipped or cultured, cheese firmness and ripening characteristics, and a list of ingredients are just some of the identifying characteristics that must appear on dairy labels in Canada. For a full list of labelling requirements, please refer to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Labelling Requirements for Dairy Products.

How Much Dairy Can You Import Under CETA?
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Under CETA, only a limited quantity of dairy can be imported at a reduced duty rate using tariff rate quotas. The CETA agreement includes specific amounts of cheese quota that is specific to CETA parties for which importers can apply. CETA also includes an annual increase of the quota amounts up until year six of the agreement of the amount of cheese that can be imported at the reduced duty rate:

Industrial Cheese (cheese used as an ingredient in another product):
850,000 kilograms in 2019
1,133,000 kilograms in 2020
1,417,000 kilograms in 2021
1,700,000 kilograms in 2022 and onwards

Other Cheese:
8,000,000 kilograms in 2019
10,667,000 kilograms in 2020
13,333,000 kilograms in 2021
16,000,000 kilograms in 2022 and onwards

Other dairy products such as yogurt, whey, ice cream and butter can also be imported under tariff rate quota; however, the total amount available is shared with all WTO countries.

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