Steps to importing
If you want to import growing media and fertiliser products of plant origin, you need to meet strict biosecurity and phytosanitary requirements. We've created a step-by-step process so you can see what's involved.
Follow the steps
Types of growing media and fertilisers
This import process covers:
- growing media and fertilisers of plant origin, including those:
- made from the by-products of processed plant materials, for example oil seed meals (like cottonseed meal, palm kernel meal, and soybean meal), husks, and ground nut shells
- manufactured from plant extracts
- containing microorganisms (such as products used to break down pollutants in the environment)
- bioremediation products
- microbial fertilisers
- fertilisers of plant origin, like seaweed extracts and foliar sprays
- coco peat (coir or coconut fibre) products for horticultural and agricultural use, including grow slabs, bales and pots
- processed peat products, including pots, pellets and plugs
- raw peat from approved countries.
If you're not sure if your product falls under this category, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Become familiar with everything you might have to do
To successfully import growing media and fertiliser products of plant origin you need to know:
- what country the growing media or fertiliser is coming from
- the product's ingredients
- genus and species details for any microorganisms in your product
- the import health standard (IHS) requirements for your product
- pre-departure inspection and treatment requirements (if any)
- Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) requirements
- extra requirements for coco peat
- New Zealand Customs Service requirements
- about using a customs broker
- the relevant fees and charges.
More details are in Step 2 – What you need to do.
Do preliminary research
New Zealand has strict biosecurity rules to prevent the entry and spread of harmful pests and diseases. You'll need to check with MPI and other agencies to see if:
- the product can meet phytosanitary requirements
- the product contains organisms approved for entry into New Zealand
- the product will be subject to duties or tariffs
- a New Zealand Customs Service permit is needed.
Processes for importing products related to growing media and fertilisers are set out elsewhere on this website:
- dried or preserved plant products, including mats and fibres derived from plants
- plant products for use as animal feeds, including oil seed meals
- forest products, covering timber, wood products or wood packaging
- soil, water and rock products
To import bulk inorganic fertilisers, see the import health standard:
Bulk inorganic fertiliser (including guano fertiliser) [PDF, 502 KB]
If your product contains any animal ingredients, find out what other import conditions may apply – email email@example.com
Download the import health standard
Biosecurity requirements are detailed in documents called import health standards (IHS). The IHS for growing media and fertilisers of plant origin has details of what you need to do to successfully import your product.
How to use the IHS document
Read the IHS thoroughly to make sure you can comply with all the requirements.
- Section 1 details the types of products covered by the IHS, general entry requirements for fertilisers and growing media, and required documents.
- Section 2 breaks down entry requirements by product type. It lists which documents must accompany each product, and phytosanitary and treatment requirements that must be met.
- Appendix 1 has IHS definitions.
Check whether your growing media or fertilisers need treatment
Growing media and fertilisers may carry contaminants like weed seeds or unwanted organisms/insects. Your product may need to be treated and inspected to make sure it is free of contaminants. Treatment and phytosanitary requirements vary depending on the product and its country of origin. Check the relevant section of the IHS to find out what you have to do.
Arrange pre-departure inspections and treatments, if needed
Processed fertilisers, growing media and bioremediation products derived from plants must be treated to ensure they're not carrying any viable seed.
To arrange pre-departure inspection or treatment of your consignment, contact your export agent or supplier in the country of origin. You'll need to provide evidence of treatment when you apply for your phytosanitary certificate.
Meet phytosanitary requirements
Check Part 2 of the IHS to see if your product needs a phytosanitary certificate, and the specific requirements it must meet. Certificates are issued in the country of origin (the exporting country).
To apply for a certificate, you or your export supplier should contact the relevant National Plant Protection Organisation (NPPO) in the country of origin. You can find the NPPO's contact details on the International Plant Protection Convention website.
A phytosanitary certificate is issued once the contact point at the NPPO is satisfied that the requirements of the IHS have been met, along with any additional declarations required.
The original phytosanitary certificate must be included with your consignment.
Products containing microorganisms
You can only import growing media or fertilisers containing microorganisms if those microorganisms don't pose a biosecurity risk.
Before applying for an import permit, check that the microorganisms in your product can be imported by:
- searching the Unwanted Organisms Register to make sure the microorganisms are not listed. If it is listed, you can't import the product
- searching the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms applications register to check the microorganisms are already considered present in New Zealand. If the microorganism isn't listed, email the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for advice – firstname.lastname@example.org
- checking whether the microorganism is regulated by searching the Biosecurity Organisms Register for Importing Commodities (BORIC). If they're not listed, ask for advice – email email@example.com.
Meet ACVM requirements, if needed
If your product makes a claim to act as a fertiliser, it is classed as an agricultural compound under the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) Act 1997. ACVM products must be authorised for entry into New Zealand. Usually, this means they must either be:
- registered for use in New Zealand, or
- considered exempt from registration.
In most cases, fertilisers are exempt from ACVM registration. Exempt products are defined in Schedule 2 of the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (Exemptions and Prohibited Substances) Regulations 2011.
If the nature of your product is unclear, you need a class determination letter from MPI confirming your product meets the ACVM exemption. A fee applies, and you'll need to give the letter to MPI border staff when your consignment arrives.
- Download the form to request a class determination [DOC, 435 KB]
Get your product registered if it's not exempt
Products that don't meet the criteria for exemption must be registered under the ACVM Act before they can be imported.
Check Customs Service requirements
Check with the New Zealand Customs Service (Customs) if:
- you can import the product without restriction
- the product will be subject to duties or tariffs
- a Customs permit is needed.
Engage a customs broker, agent or freight forwarder (recommended)
A New Zealand broker, agent or freight forwarder will help you with the arrival part of the process, such as making sure you have all the required documentation, and booking inspections of your consignment. Only registered customs brokers or qualified importers can access some New Zealand Customs Service (Customs) information.
Customs brokers and freight forwarders are usually listed in New Zealand business directories under those headings. Or you can check with the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Federation for a list of its members.
Apply for an import permit
You'll need to apply for an import permit from MPI if you're importing:
- processed fertilisers, growing media and bioremediation products derived from plant products or their by-products
- products containing microorganisms, or
- coco peat products (except those that have been or will be treated).
Extra requirements for coco peat products
If your coco peat product requires an import permit, you'll need to complete a questionnaire. This helps MPI determine the biosecurity risk of your product, and decide if it can be imported.
Ask MPI if you're not sure
If you don't understand the IHS requirements, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arrange transitional storage for coco peat products, if needed
MPI approves transitional facilities to hold and manage imported goods that might have a biosecurity risk. If your coco peat products have not been tested or treated as specified in the IHS in the country of origin, they will require a grow-out test on arrival to make sure they don't contain any viable weed seeds. This test will be done by an approved testing provider, such as AsureQuality.
MPI inspectors at the border will help you arrange for your coco peat to go to their transitional facility.
Comply with packaging and labelling requirements
Growing media and fertilisers must be commercially packaged in one of the following:
- new retail packages
- new and clean bags made of polypropylene or double-walled strong paper secured by stitching, stapling or sealing
- strong, clean, plastic sealed packages.
Each package in your consignment must be clearly labelled on the outside, with a full description of its contents.
Prepare documents before your consignment arrives
You or your customs broker need to make sure you have all the necessary documents before your goods arrive in New Zealand.
Documents you may need to supply include:
- a phytosanitary certificate
- a treatment certificate
- a manufacturer's certificate
- a purchase invoice
- the Bill of Lading.
Comply with on-arrival inspections
An MPI inspector may check your documentation and the consignment when it arrives in New Zealand to make sure it complies with the IHS. The inspector will check that the consignment is:
- as described
- correctly labelled and packaged
- free from contaminants like soil, disease, and pests (both products and packaging).
If your consignment doesn't comply on arrival
If pests or contaminants (like seeds, soil or insects) are found in a container or your product, the MPI inspector will explain your options.
Depending on the type of contaminant, you may choose to:
- identify the organism, and treat if it's a restricted pest
- have the container or consignment treated by an approved provider
- return the product to its country of origin
- destroy the product.
MPI-approved pest identification services [PDF, 235 KB]
Arrange treatments or testing, if needed
If your product or packaging has to be treated when it arrives in New Zealand, this must be done by an approved treatment provider.
You are liable for any cost associated with non-compliance or contamination.
Approved treatment providers [XLSX, 29 KB]
Approved biosecurity treatments [PDF, 1.4 MB]
Your BACC will confirm clearance
After you have completed all the relevant tasks for your product in Step 2, you'll be issued with a Biosecurity Authority Clearance Certificate (BACC), confirming the consignment has been given a biosecurity clearance.
Who to contact
If you have any questions about importing growing media and fertiliser products of plant origin, email email@example.com.
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