Considerations When Importing Fresh Produce Into Canada

Considerations When Importing Fresh Produce Into Canada

Importing produce into Canada represents a critically significant industry, accompanied by distinct challenges.

Understanding the interaction between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is a primary challenge. Produce type, time of year, and packaging can all affect delays and costs at the border. A successful shipment relies heavily on licensing, permits, and meticulous documentation.

For example, fresh potatoes for consumption must meet minimum grade requirements. A document issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) must also be presented as proof of the stated facts. Potatoes are among the few fresh produce items that attract a duty rate and dumping duty. The dump duty amount varies depending on the type of potato, packaging, and the US state where it is grown.

While not all produce commodities are as intricate as potatoes, the fundamental procedures and processes remain similar. Let's take a closer look at considerations when importing fresh produce into Canada.

What to Consider When Importing Produce Into Canada

1. Admissibility

An excellent first step is ensuring that the type of product you wish to import is admissible into Canada. Certain commodities from certain countries or regions are prohibited entry, such as crab apples from Brazil or sour cherries from Peru.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has created the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS). This is a valuable interactive tool. The website aids importers in assessing the validity of a diverse array of products. Additionally, it offers guidance on any further documentation requirements and the associated regulations.

Importers of fresh fruits and vegetables must meet specific requirements. They must become a Dispute Resolution Corp (DRC) member and reference that membership number on their import documents.

2. Safe Foods for Canadians

In 2019, a new import measure was implemented; Safe Foods For Canadians (SFCR).

SFCR aims to provide Canadian buyers with safe foods, and ensures that all food is held to the same regulatory guidelines whether grown in Canada or another country.

All produce imports into Canada will be required to obtain a SFCR license. In order to obtain one, importers will need to demonstrate the ability to trace goods, and meet packaging requirements and labeling standards.

How To Import Produce Into Canada

3. Grades and Container Sizing

Many fruits and vegetables have specific grade standards that must be met to come into Canada. Access the CFIA website to find an overview of the Canadian Grade Compendium

These regulations are for the import and regional marketing of fresh fruit and vegetables.

For most produce items, containers cannot exceed 50 kg, although container sizes for apples cannot exceed 200 kg.

4. Labeling

Just like all imports into Canada, produce must adhere to rigorous guidelines concerning labeling and packaging. All produce labels must:

  • Appear in both English and French
  • List the common name of the produce item 
Labeling Requirements For Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

5. Documentation Requirements

A Canadian Customs Invoice (CCI) listing the name of the vendor and importer, the value of the goods and shipment quantities is a requirement of entry into Canada.

How To Fill Out A Canadian Customs Invoice

Although no longer a requirement, a Confirmation of Sale (COS) form is, a useful document that lists all produce items in the shipment.

Certificates of Origin, Plant Hygiene Certificates, Plant Protection Import Permits, and CITES Certificates, are all types of additional documents. These documents might be necessary to fulfill the requirements of the CFIA, CBSA, and other Participating Government Agencies (PGAs). Produce is perishable, making it vulnerable to pests. Pest risk is the main reason for extra paperwork.

This involves accurately filling out the form, signing it, and keeping it stored at the importer's business location for six years. Your customs broker can also provide assistance in completing this form.

Importers can greatly benefit from utilizing the CFIA AIRS website as an exceptional tool. It allows them to determine if any further documentation is needed for their commodity. Enter a particular commodity in the search bar, and the system will prompt you for additional details.

Once all variables are satisfied, a list of required documents will appear. Furthermore, by clicking the link, you can access the specific regulations relevant to the commodity.

6. Research and Compliance

To be successful when importing a product, thorough research is essential. This research should include the product itself and the regulations that apply to it. This should be done before the product arrives at the border.

Thoroughly research the specific requirements that apply to your produce commodity. Stay up-to-date on any changes or import regulations. Compliance with these regulations is vital to ensure a smooth importation process and avoid any potential penalties or delays.

Detailed research is key to successful importation.

7. Seek Expert Assistance

Considering the intricate nature of produce importation, it is greatly beneficial to enlist the support of experienced professionals like customs brokers or trade consultants. They can provide valuable insights, assist with completing the necessary paperwork, and ensure compliance with all relevant regulations.

Understand Your CFIA Requirements

Importers may benefit from attending learning events about Importing CFIA Regulated Goods. In this session, you will learn about the relationship between the CFIA and CBSA.

We will also discuss licensing, permits, and documentation requirements. Acquiring the necessary knowledge will optimize your shipments, minimizing the risk of expensive delays.

This is a great opportunity to learn about the extra requirements for importing CFIA-regulated goods. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or an experienced importer. There are additional checkpoints that must be passed.

Disclaimer: While reading, kindly note the date of this blog. At PCB we do our due diligence to write on the most relevant topic every week and naturally content may become dated as developments in a certain program/topic occur. For this reason, we greatly appreciate your readership and hope you continue reading with the posting date in mind. For the latest information on this topic please use our website's search function, or better yet, subscribe to our "Trading Post" newsletter to receive these updates directly to your inbox.
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About the Author
Gloria Terhaar
CCS (CA/US), CTCS, CBSA Prof. Designate

Gloria Terhaar began her career in Canadian customs brokerage 2007. She currently works in our Canadian division as a Trade Compliance Supervisor and Regulatory Compliance Specialist. Gloria has extensive experience in all aspects of documentation and regulatory requirements as they relate to importing products into Canada. Gloria is often called upon to train industry with some recent talks for MNP, the Surrey Board of Trade, TFO Canada and the BC Produce Marketing Association. In 2018, Gloria also participated in the Canadian Produce Marketing Association and the Canadian Horticultural Council advocacy event "Fall Harvest" in Ottawa where she participated in advocacy efforts for the Canadian produce industry.

While we strive for accuracy in all our communications, as the Importer of Record it is incumbent upon your company to ensure that you are aware of the requirements under the new regulations so that you maintain compliance as always.