International trade: agriculture, fisheries, and foodstuffs

Published by:
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK
Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, NVWA
Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority, NVWA
5 min read

Do you export or import foodstuffs, vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, or live animals? When you import or export outside the EU, you have to deal with certificates and permits, checks, and customs formalities.

Importing live animals and animal products from outside the EU

The following information applies to the import of:

  • live animals and live products (semen, embryos, and hatching eggs)
  • products of animal origin (meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and animal by-products)
  • animal feed
  • hay and straw. Read more about hay and straw (in Dutch)

Importers in the Netherlands must consider:

1. Certification: the exporter must have the cargo certified

Every import shipment must be accompanied by health certificates. The exporter applies for the health certificates.

2. Pre-notification: the import shipment must be pre-notified

Import from must be pre-notified with a designated border control post. This can done by the exporter, the importer or a customs agent. For more information, please contact the trade association FENEX (in Dutch).

3. Import inspection: the NVWA carries out an import inspection

If you import animals or animal products, they must enter the EU through an approved Border Control Post (BCP). NVWA will check the animals (products) and necessary documents upon arrival. They do this in cooperation with the Customs Administration of the Netherlands. They also check if the goods are suitable for the purpose for which they are imported. For example, is the product suitable for consumption? Samples can also be taken here. The physical check may only take place at a BCP.

Exporting plants and plant products

Do you want to export plant products outside of the EU? You have to deal with phytosanitary export certificates and government checks. Also, different rules apply for products, product labelling or product packaging when exporting to a non-EU country.

Exporting foodstuffs and agricultural products

When exporting agricultural products, vegetables, fruit, meat, and live animals outside of the EU, you need to have an export certificate, among other things. If you do not have experience with trading outside the EU, start preparing well ahead. To find out what import requirements are put in place by the receiving, check the Access2Markets database. Find out more about export documentation on KVK.

Agricultural inspection and certifying authorities in the Netherlands

NVWA (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Waren Autoriteit) supervises safety for food and consumer products (non-food), animal and plant health, and animal welfare, and enforces nature legislation. The NVWA carries out checks and inspections on the import and export of animals, plants and products. Check the NVWA website (in Dutch). NWVA also offers some information in English.

Do you want to import animals from a non-EU country? You must comply with the rules on the identification and registration of the animals. More information is available in Dutch: on cattle, pigs, sheep and goats.

Are you an entrepreneur active in the field of milk and milk products? Contact COKZ (Centraal Orgaan voor Kwaliteitsaangelegenheden in de Zuivel, the Netherlands Controlling Authority for Milk and Milk Products) to find out more about international trade. COKZ also performs checks on behalf of the egg sector. See also: Approval and registration of dairy companies.

Are you an entrepreneur in the horticulture sector? Contact the KCB (Quality Control Bureau, in Dutch) to find out what you need to do business with a non-EU country. KCB performs import and export inspections of fresh fruit and vegetables, cut flowers and potted plants/ornamentals. The KCB offers more information about doing business with the UK (in Dutch).

Are you an entrepreneur in organic agriculture and horticulture? SKAL Biocontrole is the official certifying and monitoring body for the organic chain in the Netherlands Contact Skal Biocontrol (in Dutch).

Are you an entrepreneur in propagating material for agriculture? NAK (Nederlandse Algemene Keuringsdienst voor zaaizaad en pootgoed van landbouwgewassen, in Dutch) performs export and import inspections on seed potatoes, ware potatoes and agricultural seed. Contact NAK (in Dutch) for more information.

Are you an entrepreneur in propagating material for flowers, trees and vegetables? Naktuinbouw monitors and promotes product quality, processes and chains in horticulture. The focus is on propagating material (seeds and planting materials). On their website, you can find more information.

Do you want to know more about plant breeders' rights? Consult the Board for Plant Varieties’ website. The Board is responsible for granting breeders' rights and admission of plant varieties and forest stands. Contact the Raad voor plantenrassen.

Are you a grower or trader in flower bulbs? Contact BKD for more information. BKD performs inspections on flower bulbs for quality, import and export, field inspections and more. BKD also offers laboratory services and tests. You can find more information on BKD’s services on their website.

To market crop protection and biocides in the Netherlands, you need a permit from Ctgb: the Board for the Authorisation of Plant Protection Products and Biocides (College voor de toelating van gewasbeschermingsmiddelen en biociden). Find out more on the Ctgb website. Ctgb also issues export certificates for products confirming the given plant protection product is authorised or registered for the given field(s) of use.

Do you want to import protected plants or animals – or derivatives thereof such as feathers, shells, hides and pelts – from a non-EU country? Or do you want to buy, sell or transport protected species in Europe? You may need a CITES permit or an EU certificate. You can find more information on the RVO website (in Dutch). Contact RVO

Sector organisations in the Netherlands

The Netherlands Agricultural and Horticultural (LTO Nederland) represents over 35,000 agricultural entrepreneurs and employers, with a commitment to the economic and social position of its members. Read more on LTO Nederland on their website.

The Dutch Fishermen's Federation is an interest group for Dutch professional fishermen, owners and seamen, in sea fishing, inshore fishing and inland fishing. Visit the Dutch Fishermen’s Federation’s website for more information (in Dutch).

VisNed is the interest group for the Dutch cutter fleet. It operates as the umbrella organisation for 5 of the 7 producer organisations (POs) in the cutter sector. Visit the Visned website for more information (in Dutch).

The Dutch fisheries sector provides information on the online platform (in Dutch).

The Dutch Federation for the food industry (Federatie Nederlandse Levensmiddelen Industrie, FNLI) is the umbrella organisation and interest group for processing and importing businesses and sectors in the Dutch food industry. FNLI represents around 500 companies and 18 sector organisations. Visit the FNLI website for more information (in Dutch).

The Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers represents 155 sector associations and around 500 enterprises.

MKB-Nederland (translated as SME Netherlands) represent the interests of over 170,000 entrepreneurs (SMEs).

Current information for the Dutch fisheries sector can be found on the Dutch government website (in Dutch).

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce, KVK