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Importing small packet seed into Canada

Seeds in small packets, intended primarily for home gardens, and imported by home gardeners or by commercial businesses, must comply with the requirements of the Seeds Act and Seeds Regulations. Imported seed must not contain Canadian prohibited noxious weed seeds and must meet the minimum standards for other weed and crop seed as prescribed by the Seeds Regulations. The importer is required to keep the seed separate from all other seed and intact in its packaging at the import's first destination until a Notice of Import Conformity is issued indicating that the seed meets the requirements of the Seeds Regulations unless an exemption to this requirement applies.

There are many tools and programs available to assist importers in understanding import requirements and to expedite the Import Conformity Assessment (ICA) process. Tools available to importers include:

  1. The CFIA's Automated Import Requirements System (AIRS) – This online tool allows importers to determine the import requirements for their shipment and includes requirements of other legislation which may also apply.
  2. The ABCs of seed importation into Canada – This document provides importers with an overview of the import process, information on importation documents, answers to frequently asked questions along with information regarding other legislation that may also apply.
  3. Pre-clearance program – Importers may provide the required documentation in advance of their shipment, allowing an ICA to be completed prior to importation, and a Notice of Import Conformity to be issued, therefore, the seed would not need to be kept separate and intact after importation.
  4. Local CFIA offices – Importers with additional questions can contact their local CFIA office, or the office closest to the destination of their import.
  5. Authorized importers (AI) – AIs are Registered Seed Establishments that are permitted, under their approved and audited quality management system, to conduct the ICAs for seed importations. AIs are permitted to conduct ICAs for other importers prior to importation, if they wish to offer this service. Seed pre-cleared by an AI can be imported directly to the importer's destination and would not need to be kept separate and intact.

"Small lots" of seed, that is quantities of less than 5 kg of large seeded kinds such as peas, beans and corn or quantities of less than 500 g of small seeded kinds such as carrot or alfalfa, are exempted from providing an import declaration or a seed analysis certificate and do not require an ICA. Most seed imported by Canadian gardeners would fall under the "small lot" category. However, seed imported for commercial purposes will often require an ICA as the combined weight of commercial imports often exceeds the "small lot" size. The importer is responsible for ensuring that all requirements are met, including freedom from prohibited noxious weed seeds regardless of the exemptions that apply.

To facilitate an import conformity decision, the importer should ensure that all import requirements are met prior to import and that the required documentation accompanies the import shipment. Importers of small packets of seed into Canada should be aware of the following:

  1. every lot of imported seed must meet the Canadian weed seed standards and be labelled as required if it is going to be sold in Canada (regardless of whether it meets the "small lot" exemption at time of import);
  2. seeds of vegetables and herbs may only be labelled with a grade name if the kind is listed in Schedule I to the Seeds Regulations – listed kinds are exempt from grading but must be labelled to indicate the actual or a guaranteed minimum percentage germination of the seed and the year in which the seed was tested for germination; and
  3. seeds of vegetables and herbs of kinds not listed in Schedule I to the Seeds Regulations, including seeds of flowers, ornamental grasses and other miscellaneous seeds, do not have a germination standard but may be labelled with the actual or guaranteed minimum percentage germination, but cannot be labelled with a Canada grade name (for example basil seed)