UPDATE: February 2020. The Government has released a 27 page Frequently Asked Question document to try to help businesses understand the new rules. Find it here.

All businesses which sell plants or plant products must register as a Professional Operator under new plant passport rules BEFORE they come into effect on 14 December.

As from 14 December 2019, the UK will be subject to requirements being implemented across the European Union in relation to phytosanitary certificates and the introduction of plant passports. Plant passports are an official label which must be physically attached to a plant consignment to enable its movements to be traced within the EU and an individual Member State.

As part of these requirements, any professional who is legally responsible for the movement of plants e.g. planting, growing, making available for sale etc must register with the Competent Authority as a Professional Operator.

It is our understanding that all those in the ornamental aquatic plant sector chain e.g. importers, consolidators, wholesalers, growers, retailers, pond/aquarium contractors and water garden landscapers will be required to register.

Certain Professional Operators will also be required to be inspected and authorised by the Competent Authority to be an Authorised Operator. Only Authorised Operators can issue plant passports. There will also be requirements that information on plant passports received and issued must be retained for three years.

Retailers should be aware that if they sell plants using distance selling methods e.g. online, mail order, over the telephone etc., they are required to pass plant passports down to the final domestic end user (the customer). Businesses who sell via online facilitating platforms such as ebay, Amazon etc., will also be subject to this same requirement.

Please note there is no transition/phase in period for these new plant health requirements. They therefore take effect as from 14 December. However, we have been advised that Competent Authorities will take a pragmatic approach as long as businesses can demonstrate their intent to comply.

OATA members can find more detailed guidance on plant passports in our Members’ Area here.

In the meantime, we advise:

  • All affected businesses need to register as a Professional Operator.
  • For businesses in England & Wales, the Competent Authority is the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). To register as a Professional Operator you need to complete their AppReg form available here. Registration as a Professional Operator is free. Registered Professional Operators who need to be authorised to issue plant passports need to complete form AppAuth, which is available here. There are fees involved to be inspected and authorised as an Authorised Operator.
  • For businesses in Scotland, the Competent Authority is the Scottish government Horticulture and Marketing Unit. Their email is: hort.marketing@gov.scot
  • For businesses in Northern Ireland, the Competent Authority is DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs). Their email is planthealth@daera-ni.gov.uk
  • We recommend that businesses who apply to register as a Professional Operator keep a copy/screenshot of their application as evidence of intent to comply, although this should be recorded automatically for those applying via the APHA’s online system.
  • Keep an eye on the Gov.UK website where futher updates from the Government will also be posted over coming days.
  • Read this document from the Government explaining the rules.
  • Read this latest advice from the Government.