How To Import Flowers Into Canada In 7 Steps

When you’re trying to import a delicate, perishable product into Canada, the last thing you want are delays at the border.

Having a shipment of flowers spoil at a port of entry because the paperwork is incomplete or incorrect is not only frustrating, it can be costly, and with the world economy the way it is, it’s more important than ever to have a smooth, easy, and efficient way to import flowers and plants into Canada.

If you are new to the fresh flowers game, you might wonder: Can I bring flowers to Canada? Or even, Can I import plants into Canada?

The answer to both is: Yes!

However, there are definitely steps, checks, and balances you want to keep in mind. This way you can import plants into Canada efficiently and with few - or even better - zero delays or hiccups.

How Do I Import Agricultural Products Into Canada?

The first thing to understand is the different touchpoints and regulatory bodies that are involved when you send flowers to Canada or import agricultural products into Canada from another country.

This will apply to dried flowers, fresh flowers, wholesale flowers, cut flowers, plants, and all plant products you want to send to Canada.

Regulatory Bodies For Importing Flowers Into Canada:

  • Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA)
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA)
  • Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC)
  • National Plant Protection Organization (NPPO) of the exporting country

Your Customs Broker and Carrier work in tandem with these agencies, following their prescribed rules and regulations for importing plants and flowers into Canada. 

Let’s say you are someone importing plants from Thailand to Canada, or a florist sending flowers from the U.S. into Canada, here are some of the most notable items you need to consider as the Importer of Record (IOR).

1. Is It Admissible Into Canada?

There are some flowers and plants are not admissible into Canada because they could be an invasive species or the CFIA has not completed a pest risk assessment (PRA) on the item. Without the risk assessment, CFIA will not know if the plant will pose a risk to the Canadian ecology and ecological systems. If CFIA has not performed a PRA, the product will not be admissible to Canada.

Some plants and flowers require an export certificate before importing into Canada because they are regulated by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, (CITES) administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC).

To avoid unnecessary expenses, loss of product and time, it’s a good idea to ensure your flower import is admissible into Canada before you get started on the import processes.

2. Check Import Requirements

One question we get a lot is: What is the cost of a plant import permit to Canada?

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has created a handy online tool for checking the import requirements and fees for each commodity you are having imported into Canada.

It’s called the Automated Import Reference System (AIRS) and it’s an important resource for importing flowers into Canada easily.

The AIRS will allow you to quickly determine if the flower is approved for import, the conditions of import, as well as any additional instructions you’ll need to follow.

An example of a special requirement that may apply to a specific flower would be the requirement for a Phytosanitary Certificate. This verifies the plants have been inspected and approved for export/import.

PRO TIP: Check the CITES appendix to determine if the species or genus of your import is listed and not exempted by the footnotes. Otherwise, a CITES export permit will be required.

PRO TIP: Confirm the species name of the plant or plant product you want to import and its origin and ultimate destination in the CFIA AIRS database. Knowing the species will allow you to confirm admissibility and import requirements. There are a lot of look-a-like species out there that are from completely different families. For example Queen Anne's Lace & False Queen Anne's Lace. False is in the Ammi Majus family, whereas the other is Daucus Carota. They look pretty much the same but one is regulated for import into BC and the other is not.

PRO TIP: To avoid unexpected delays, review the Pests Regulated by Canada database. This will allow you to determine in advance if your flowers are vulnerable to a common pest that would require them to undergo a pest risk assessment and certification.

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3. Describing The Flower Accurately

You will need an accurate description of the type of flower or flowers you are importing. For example roses, lilies, or daffodils.

PRO TIP: Be clear to list each type of flower included in the shipment, even if it’s a single bouquet. Include the complete species name.

4. Listing The Contents Of The Shipment

The invoice must list out the following details for each type of flower:

  • The Country of Origin (not to be confused with where the item is shipped from, but rather where the item is grown or produced.
  • The weight (of each type, and the total combined weight, net and gross)
  • The number of stems for each flower or plant type
  • A separate value for each type

For more information on how to complete customs documentation, please visit our documents page.

Making sure your invoice accurately lists out and breaks down the contents of your flower/plant shipment is a “small” detail that can help to avoid very big problems. It’s worth the time and effort to be thorough and will help you to import flowers into Canada with fewer delays.

5. Duties & Taxes

There are duties and taxes that must be paid upon the importation of flowers and plants into Canada. The rate of duty due at the point of import will be dependent on the assigned tariff of the item being imported, as well as the origin and value of the goods.

PRO TIP: Different rules apply to bouquets and the types of flowers that make up a bouquet. Always review your tariff classification and valuation carefully to ensure the details are correct.

PRO TIP: You will need to adjust the valuation of your shipment if you are importing flowers that have traveled from offshore via the U.S. This adjustment will take into account the additional handling costs incurred.

Learn More: How to Import Flowers and Plants into Canada

6. Special Shipping Needs

Flowers require special shipping because they are both perishable and delicate. Packaging must protect the stems and petals from damage. In addition, imported flowers need to be kept cool in order to avoid premature blooming or spoilage. All efforts need to be taken to ensure your flowers arrive in Canada still looking fresh, beautiful, and ready to sell.

PRO TIP: Even the packaging you use for an import is subject to regulations. One of the reasons for this is to prevent unwanted agriculture-damaging pests from getting into the ecosystem. This is the territory of the CFIA. They have several different acts they use as a foundation, including the Plant Protection Act.

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7. Before Arrival In Canada

Prior to arriving at the port of crossing into Canada, have your Customs Broker submit the customs release request to CBSA and CFIA, as well as a pre-arrival notification (via import declaration). This will hasten the process and decrease delays. 

Once everything is in order, you will wait for a release determination, provided by the CBSA and CFIA. Once received, your shipment will be released and you can get to the business of selling or delivering your beautiful cargo!

Other Important Notes When Importing Flowers Into Canada

With the right guidance and preparation, your flowers and plants will arrive in Canada unhindered and in perfect condition. 

But, even with all your paperwork in order, and following the above steps, it’s important to note that your shipment may still require a customs review, an audit or an inspection prior to or even after the importation. The Government of Canada may levy additional fees for these services. Knowing this will help you be mentally prepared, and possibly even allow any appropriate extra time when there is a time-sensitive shipment. 

In fact, an audit of an import can take place at any point during the six years that follow the date of import. For this reason, you are required to keep your import records for a period of six years plus the year of import.

Everything You Need To Know About Perishable Goods

If you want more help and guidance, you can contact us and we will go through these steps on your behalf and present to you the final determinations of what is required for your shipment. We are here to smooth the way and get your flowers into Canada in the fastest, easiest way possible.

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About Author
Ralf Steinberg

Ralf has been working in the Freight Forwarding Industry for over 30+ years. He started his Freight Forwarding career in Bogota, Colombia at the age of 14 working in Export Department at Lufthansa. His professional career began in Bremen, Germany, and continued in Colombia and now in Toronto, Canada. In Colombia, Ralf was first in Buenaventura, Colombia (Ocean Operations) and then in Bogota, Colombia (Sea and Air Sales Manager). Ralf brings extensive international sales experience within the Freight Industry. In 2018 he was invited to speak at the CPMA Convention Workshop in Vancouver B.C., helping International Produce Suppliers to understand the importance of perishable transportation in their business.

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.