CFIA offers pre-clearance process for imported seed

Any imported seed that meets Canadian import requirements can now be pre-cleared for entry before it reaches a Canadian port or border crossing, in a policy shift aimed at preventing border backlog.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency announced last week that it can now streamline pre-clearance procedures for imported seed, where previously only industry personnel accredited through the CFIA’s Authorized Importer program could get seed pre-cleared before import.

"This small change will benefit producers, importers and the entire Canadian agriculture sector by making sure import procedures reflect the speed of commerce," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a release.

For all imported seed that meets Canadian import requirements, CFIA, effective immediately, can complete an import conformity assessment (ICA) and issue required documents for imports of seed in advance.

The ICA process for seed includes a review of all mandatory documents — specifically, the import declaration and the seed analysis certificate.

Generally, if seed has been found to meet Canadian import requirements, then a "notice of import conformity" would be issued; the seed can then be planted, repackaged or sold in Canada.

However, until now, seed from importers not covered by the Authorized Importer program had to be held "separate and intact" in its original packages after it was imported, while the CFIA completed the ICA process.

Under the new procedure, all imported seed that requires an ICA can be pre-cleared. The CFIA can complete the ICA process and issue the notice of import conformity in advance.

When a pre-cleared shipment arrives at the border, the associated documentation will be verified and the seed can continue to its destination "without further delay," the agency said.

The pre-clearance option, CFIA said, is meant to give the importer an opportunity to complete paperwork before seed is imported. It won’t change priority of processing, the agency said, but it will provide "greater flexibility" to the importer to complete paperwork ahead of time to avoid delays.

"As the seed will be pre-cleared, it will not need to be kept separate and intact once it enters the country and can be released at the border to be planted or sold faster," CFIA said.

An importer would fax his or her required information to the CFIA’s ICA office in Saskatoon, making sure to "clearly identify" that the information is for pre-clearance of seed and provide the customs transaction number from the customs broker, if available.

When the ICA is complete, the Saskatoon office will issue the notice of import conformity, and the importer can provide a copy of that notice to accompany the imported seed.

CFIA emphasized last week that it "will continue to monitor imported seed lots through regular sampling and testing, both at the destination and in the marketplace."

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