European market access requirements for fruits and vegetables

To sell your fruit and vegetables on the European market, you need to comply with European market access requirements. These requirements can vary from Europe-wide legislation to common buyer preferences.

Legal requirements

The most important European legislation you must comply with is on Food Safety and Hygiene. It aims to ensure the quality of food products throughout the whole supply chain. Implementing food management principles and subjecting food products to official controls are important aspects of this process. To enable this, food products must be traceable throughout the entire supply chain.

Related to food safety and hygiene are the legal limits for Food Contaminants that you cannot exceed. Common contaminants in fruit and vegetables include nitrate, cadmium, lead, mercury, inorganic tin and pesticide residues.

To prevent introduction and spread of organisms harmful to plants and plant products in the EU, the Plant Health Regulation sets specific phytosanitary requirements. Fruit and vegetables exported to the EU must comply with this legislation.

There are marketing standards for the minimum quality and maturity of apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuce, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes. A certificate of conformity must accompany each consignment.

Cartons of fresh fruit or vegetables should be labelled according to European Consumer Labelling law. These labels must be visible, legible, indelible and easy to understand, usually in the language(s) of the European target market.

Complying with these legal requirements is key, because unsafe or incorrectly labelled products are banned from entering the European market!

Additional requirements

In addition to legislation, European buyers often have non-legal requirements. Especially regarding food safety, environmental impact and social responsibility. Meeting these additional requirements isn’t mandatory, but can increase your chances on the market considerably.

A common additional requirement is Food Safety Certification. For processors, this usually means a HACCP-based food safety management system. The Global Food Safety Initiative recognises several systems. Producers should follow good agricultural practices to ensure food safety, usually via GLOBALG.A.P certification. This covers all stages of production, from pre-harvest activities like soil management to post-harvest handling, packaging and storage. BRC global standards are also common in Northern and Western Europe.

To address social and environmental issues, European companies increasingly require Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies. These generally include health and safety, business ethics and social responsibility requirements. Your buyer may require you to comply with their company’s CSR-policy, or common industry codes like BSCI or SA8000. There are also several sustainability certification schemes, like the Rain Forest Alliance.

Niche market requirements

If you can produce organic and/or Fair Trade fruit and vegetables these European niche markets may provide interesting opportunities. You need to obtain Organic and/or Fair Trade Certification, like IFOAM and FLO. Organic fruit and vegetables require natural production and processing techniques like crop rotation, biological crop protection, green manure and compost. For Fair Trade fruit and vegetables you need to establish fair, reliable and predictable contract arrangements along the entire supply chain.

Want to know more?

Would you like to know more about European market access requirements for fruit and vegetables? You can read all about them in CBI’s What requirements should fresh fruit or vegetables meet to be allowed on the European market?, including tips, guidance documents and helpdesk information!

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