Importing organic products

More and more consumers are opting for organic products. Want to capitalise on this new trend and import organic foods, beverages, or ingredients from abroad? You will need Skal certification to prove to your customers that your products are truly organic.

If you produce, process, package, import, trade, or store organic products in the Netherlands, European legislation requires that you be certified to do so. Read what the rules are for importing organic products in this article. 

Certification duty

If your business imports organic products, you have to be certified. An exception applies if you import pre-packaged organic products from another EU country and sell these products to consumers through a brick & mortar shop or market stall. If you provide these pre-packaged products with your company name, brand name or company details, if your shop or market stall also sell unpackaged organic products, or if you also have other business activities, you do have to be certified. Use the Skal certification checker (in Dutch) to find out whether you have to register and have your outlet certified. 

Sustainable? Check the quality mark

Sustainable quality marks are becoming ever more popular. Customers want to know what the impact of products is on humans, the environment, and animal welfare. A reliable quality mark does not only inform - it sets you apart from your rivals. 

If you sell organic goods on a shopping site, you are required to register and may, under certain conditions, also need certification (in Dutch). Every EU member state has its own control bodies and authorities to check that organic products are certified. In the Netherlands, this is done by Skal Biocontrole. 

Certifying your business

To have your business certified, you need a quality plan or quality manual that describes your key processes, as well as your traceability and complaints procedures. 

Certifying your products

Apart from obtaining organic certification for your business, you may also have to register your organic products with Skal. Organic products imported (in Dutch) from non-EU countries or products purchased abroad and sold under your company name or brand name, for example, have to be registered (in Dutch). 

Importing from EU countries

The EU has free movement of goods. You do not pay import duties when you import organic products or materials from a fellow member state. You do not have to declare the goods to Dutch Customs. If you buy products from an EU supplier, you will usually receive a 0% VAT invoice. For that, the supplier does need your VAT ID number.  

You calculate Dutch VAT on your purchase. You file this VAT in your VAT return. Most likely you will be able to deduct this amount in the same VAT return, as pre-tax. The Dutch VAT rate for organic products is 9%. The 21% VAT rate applies to beverages with an alcoholic percentage of over 0.5%.   

Different rules for importing

Study the rules for importing foodstuffs, as well as the special demands on organic products. Read the roadmap on importing products for more general information. 

Importing from non-EU countries

Do you import organic products or materials from a country outside the EU? You have to file a customs declaration. Countries outside the EU are called 'third countries'. It is usual for your transporter or forwarder to take care of the customs declaration. They charge a fee for this. They often advance the import duties and VAT you have to pay. You also need an EORI number

The following conditions apply:

  • You import products from a recognised third country. The certification requirements for organic products in these countries are equivalent to those in the EU. You can find a list of countries in Annex I of Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/2325. These are 11 countries including Australia, Canada, India, Turnesia and the United States.
    The EU has also reached agreements on trade in organic products with Chile, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. More information on the effective date, products and control organisations can be found in the agreements with these 3 countries.

  • You import products from a non-recognised third country. In this case, the products have to be certified by a recognised control body from Annex II of Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/2325.

  • You need an e-COI, or Certificate of Inspection for import of products from organic production. This shows that the products have been certified by a recognised body. You can request an e-COI from your foreign supplier’s (exporter) certifying body by using the Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES, in Dutch).
  • Many foodstuffs have to be inspected for food safety when imported from outside the EU. Foodstuffs that usually have to be inspected are foodstuffs of animal origin, vegetables, fruit, and products that contain animal and vegetable ingredients. In the Netherlands, these inspections are carried out by NVWA or KCB. You notify the import beforehand with a so-called GGB, a Gemeenschappelijk Gezondheidsdocument van Binnenkomst (common entry health document). Get help from a forwarder to arrange this. 
  • When you receive the import shipment, make sure to check the traceability marks, names, quantities and the organic logo, as well as taking a close look at the Certificate of Inspection (e-COI). 

The European Commission also provides information on improting organic products from third countries.