Guidelines for Requesting and Administering Ministerial Exemptions for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables
Import and Interprovincial
(Note: These Guidelines pertain to commodities other than potatoes and apples, which have their respective Guidelines for requesting and administering Ministerial Exemptions)
(Modified June 16, 2014)
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations (Regulations), under the Canada Agricultural Products Act (Act), prescribe packaging, labelling and grade requirements for fresh fruits and vegetables entering into interprovincial or import trade in Canada.
The Regulations apply in respect of produce that is marketed fresh to consumers or is intended for further processing. Processors or packers are free to source their supplies from the area or supplier of their choice provided those supplies comply with all the requirements of the Act and the Regulations.
Fruits and vegetables, for which there are grade names established in the Regulations, must meet mandatory quality standards when being marketed in interprovincial and import trade. The quality parameters prescribed by the Regulations include minimum and maximum size limits, standards for uniformity of shape and maturity, as well as establishing tolerances for the presence of defects which affect the marketability of product.
Additionally, fruits and vegetables for which there are grade names established in the Regulations are subject to packaging and labelling rules when marketed in interprovincial and import trade. Onions are required to be certified as meeting regulatory requirements when marketed in import trade. The certification requirement is waived for onions grown in and imported from the United States as part of a Pilot Project implemented under the Beyond the Border Initiative. The certification requirement is however maintained for onions grown in a country other than the United States (US) and imported into Canada from a US distributor. Pursuant to subsection 5(2) of the Regulations, produce for which a grade is established, may not be marketed in import or interprovincial trade in containers exceeding 50 kg, or 200 kg for apricots, peaches and pears (200 kg in accordance with Test Markets). As such, produce moving in bulk containers (bins, sacks, etc.) in excess of the prescribed weight or without proper markings, whether graded to meet the minimum quality standards or not, do not comply with the regulatory requirements set out in the Regulations for packaging and/or labelling.
Under certain circumstances, regulatory requirements may be exempted and movement of non-compliant product from another province or country may be permitted. Pursuant to subsection 2.2(2) of the Regulations, the Minister or a delegate of the Minister may exempt a product from the minimum grade (quality), labelling and/or packaging requirements prescribed by the Regulations, where the Minister considers it necessary in order to prevent or alleviate a shortage of product in Canada.
The labelling, packaging and quality requirements may be waived when a Ministerial Exemption is requested for processing purposes. Only the labelling and packaging requirements may be waived when a Ministerial Exemption is requested for repacking purposes. The quality requirement will be dictated by import or interprovincial regulatory requirements and in some cases, the applicant's specific requirements. It should be noted that in all cases, health and safety requirements will not be waived.
Such discretionary authority provides the Minister with the ability to assist packers and/or processors to obtain the supplies necessary to continue operating and to meet demand for products by sourcing available supplies from another province or another country.
These Guidelines for Requesting and Administering Ministerial Exemptions are used by the Minister, or a delegate of the Minister, in exercising his or her discretion to issue Ministerial Exemptions for interprovincial and import trade. In the case of Ministerial Exemptions for fresh fruit and vegetables, the Minister's authority has been delegated to officials within the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Any reference to the Minister in these Guidelines includes the delegated officials within the CFIA.
2. Evidence of shortage
An exemption from the regulatory requirements may only be issued by the Minister where it is necessary to prevent or alleviate a shortage in Canada and individuals seeking product should demonstrate, with evidence satisfactory to the Minister, that a shortage in supply exists. Evidence of shortage will generally be considered adequate if, as a minimum, applicants verify availability of domestic supply through the following sources:
- known suppliers;
- producer organizations, Marketing Boards, commodity commissions, etc.; or
- any other source of information which may be beneficial to the Minister's delegate in determining the availability of domestic supply and/or considering the application for a Ministerial Exemption.
(Note: Provincial Departments of Agriculture may be contacted to determine appropriate organizations or Marketing Boards).
In the case of interprovincial Ministerial Exemptions, the applicant must verify availability within the receiving province. In the case of import Ministerial Exemptions, applicants must verify availability within the receiving province and neighbouring provinces.
In most cases, the Minister will consider that the requested product is not available if the applicant can demonstrate (e.g., facsimile transmission verification report) that no response was received by the applicant within three (3) working days of the receipt of the request for information. Responses should only indicate if supply is available or not. In cases where the suppliers, assocations, boards, etc., indicate that suitable quality of supplies are available in their province, they are to provide the applicant with satisfactory information on sources of those supplies, i.e., grower's name, address, telephone number, as well as the volume, expected date of availabiliy or other such information that would indicate the supply situation.
Certain associations or boards who are primary contact points for applicants may, however, establish scheduled responses to requests for information. In such cases, a response time of up to seven (7) calendar days may be reserved providing the association or board makes their response schedule known in advance both to potential Ministerial Exemption applicants and the CFIA.
Evidence of shortage should accompany the application. Documentation may be forwarded to the appropriate office of the CFIA (see Appendix A for CFIA delegates in your region) by letter, facsimile, electronic mail messages or other means of printed communication. With the exception of electronic mail, it is required that evidence of shortage documentation be on the letterhead of the organization and signed by a responsible representative of the organization.
Suppliers, associations, boards, etc., are expected to provide prompt written responses to an applicant's request for information. Notations on the Ministerial Exemption application will not be accepted as evidence of shortage.
In addition, any other information which may be beneficial to the Minister in determining the availability of domestic supply and/or considering the application for a Ministerial Exemption may also be taken into consideration.
If supply is determined to be available in Canada, the Minister will reject the application or portion thereof until supply is not available.
Applicants are required to identify dates for shipping to assist in establishing appropriate start dates and cut-off dates for the Ministerial Exemption.
3. Availability of supply
In the evaluation of supply, applicants may only include additional quality parameters which are quantifiable or measurable and which could be verified through inspection. Quality parameters will be considered on a case by case basis by the Minister. Examples of applicants' quality parameters include, but are not limited to: pressure test requirements or size requirements.
To assist the Minister and potential suppliers in assessing shortage or available supply, applicants are requested to include any additional quality parameter requirements in the Special Tolerances section of the Ministerial Exemption application.
The quality parameters stated on the application will be taken into account when availability of supply is being verified. However, these parameters cannot be in contradiction to other information supplied on the application.
Generally, in the case of produce for processing, the product need not meet one of the grades specified in the Regulations, but may be subject to the quality parameters specified by the applicant on the application.
In the case of produce for repacking, only labelling and packaging requirements may be waived.
Availability may be subject to review in the exercise of determining shortage. In these instances, the CFIA may verify the quality of produce offered as being available.
Among other measures, if non-compliance with these Guidelines is determined, the Minister may refuse to consider Ministerial Exemption applications or evidence of shortage letters.
4. Preparation and submission of applications
The applicant completes an application for a Ministerial Exemption and submits it to the CFIA office in the receiving province along with the supporting evidence (e.g., letter from industry association) and payment for the number of loads requested.
A standardized Request for an Exemption to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations form (CFIA/ACIA 4685) is attached to these Guidelines (Appendix B). This interactive form may be downloaded from the CFIA website, or photocopied or typeset copies may be obtained from designated CFIA offices (Appendix A).
The applicant is responsible for verifying that any product for which a Ministerial Exemption is requested is in compliance with any other applicable federal acts and regulations, e.g., Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, Plant Protection Act and Regulations, etc. Note that a compliance agreement, plant health permit or phytosanitary certificate may be required for the importation of some commodities.
Applicants may forward the application for a Ministerial Exemption to the CFIA and the request for evidence of shortage to the producer organization (or other such supplier) simultaneously. However, the application will not be processed until the application is considered to be complete.
5. Processing of applications
Upon receipt of a completed application to the designated CFIA office (refer to Appendix A for contact information), CFIA officials shall:
- review the application and submitted evidence to ascertain the completeness of the submission; and
- ensure the proper payment for the Ministerial Exemption is received.
If deficiencies are apparent, the applicant will be advised by the CFIA and the application will be placed on hold until the required information has been supplied or the proper payment has been received.
When the application appears to be complete, the Minister may:
- verify, prior to approval, any plant health requirements; and
- if necessary, seek additional information relating to the application from other relevant parties in order to arrive at a decision.
When satisfied that all requirements have been met, the Minister will generally approve the requested Ministerial Exemption, approve a portion of it or deny the request if an apparent shortage in the available supply from domestic production is not confirmed.
5.1 Interprovincial Ministerial Exemptions
The Ministerial Exemption will be issued on CFIA letterhead with a Ministerial Exemption contract number. This Ministerial Exemption will indicate the total number of loads granted. The CFIA will send, by facsimile or electronic mail, a signed copy to the appropriate CFIA shipping point office and fax or send a copy to the applicant.
The shipper must request a subsequent Ministerial Exemption for each load from the CFIA shipping point office, whereby Ministerial Exemptions will be printed for each individual load and authorized by a CFIA inspector (e.g., if a Ministerial Exemption is authorized for 3 loads, three separate Ministerial Exemptions will be printed and numbered 1 of 3, 2 of 3, and 3 of 3). The shipping point office will forward the Ministerial Exemptions, with original signatures, to the shipper identified on the Ministerial Exemption. A Ministerial Exemption signed by a CFIA inspector authorizing movement must accompany each load.
If the shipper cannot obtain original copies of the Ministerial Exemptions from the shipping point office, then the Ministerial Exemptions may be faxed to the shipper. In these cases, the shipping point office must notify the originating CFIA office that the Ministerial Exemptions are being faxed to the shipper. Shippers shall ensure that each load is accompanied by one of the faxed Ministerial Exemptions which clearly shows in the header that the fax was received from a CFIA office.
5.2 Import Ministerial Exemptions
For all commodities for which grades are established and imported from any country, other than potatoes and apples imported from the United States, the Ministerial Exemption is not forwarded to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) by CFIA.
In this situation, a Ministerial Exemption will be printed on CFIA letterhead for each individual load requested and signed by a CFIA delegate (e.g., if a Ministerial Exemption is authorized for 3 loads, three separate Ministerial Exemptions will be printed and numbered 1 of 3, 2 of 3, and 3 of 3) (Appendix C ). CFIA will forward the Ministerial Exemptions, with original signatures, to the applicant, and provide a copy to the appropriate CFIA receiving office.
The applicant must ensure that an original Ministerial Exemption is at the Canadian point of entry when each load enters Canada (e.g., courier the original Ministerial Exemption to the Customs' Broker at the point of entry) to ensure that every load is accompanied by an original Ministerial Exemption. Should a bulk load arrive at the border and not be accompanied by an original Ministerial Exemption, the load will be refused entry.
The applicant is required to notify the nearest CFIA inspection office of the arrival of a bulk load, where monitoring may be performed to ensure compliance with the terms of the Ministerial Exemption. Should the load not comply with the requirements, the applicant will be given options for its disposal.
Failure to notify the nearest CFIA inspection office will result in further control measures to ensure that loads comply with the terms of the Ministerial Exemption.
Note: For those rare instances where onions are grown in a country other than the United States and imported from a US distributor into Canada, the same Ministerial Exemption procedures will apply as for apples (Section 7.2) and potatoes (Section 5.1.2).
5.3 Requirements for all applications
Ministerial Exemptions are issued for a particular province and are not to be used to ship product into another province and are not transferable between applicants.
Ministerial Exemptions will not be restricted to a monthly basis, but may be granted for any period of time subject to evidence of shortage presented.
Ministerial Exemptions must expire on December 31st of each year in order to accommodate the contract numbering scheme of the Exemption and Authorization System (EAS).
When a Ministerial Exemption is granted for only a portion of the volume requested on the original application, the CFIA will advise the applicant of the change in volume. Additionally, when an application is denied, the CFIA will notify the applicant of the decision in writing, return the application with a statement that the request has been denied and return the applicable payment.
Once printed and issued by the CFIA, no person shall add, remove, or alter any information printed on a Ministerial Exemption whether it is an original or a faxed copy received from the CFIA.
6. Payment for Ministerial Exemptions
As noted in section 4, the applicant must submit payment of the fee with the application for a Ministerial Exemption to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations.
In accordance with Item 1 of the Table in Part 6 of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Fees Notice pursuant to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act, the fee prescribed for Ministerial Exemptions shall be paid at the time of the request for a Ministerial Exemption or be payable on receipt of a statement for services supplied by the CFIA.
The fee that is payable for a Ministerial Exemption conferred under Item 1 of the Table in Part 6 of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Fees Notice is $20.00 per load.
No refund will be given for unused portions of an approved Ministerial Exemption, except in the case where the CFIA has terminated the Ministerial Exemption earlier than stated on the Ministerial Exemption.
When a request for a Ministerial Exemption is denied, the CFIA will return the application along with the payment to the applicant.
7. Amendments to Ministerial Exemptions
The applicant must complete a new application for any amendment to an existing Ministerial Exemption. The application for an amendment must be submitted to the CFIA office in the receiving region.
In certain circumstances, the applicant may be asked to provide additional evidence that the product is still in shortage.
8. Payment for amendments
No fee will be charged for an amendment to an existing Ministerial Exemption when the amendment is for a change to:
- the name and address of a shipper(s) or adding a shipper(s) in the same province/state;
- the quality requirements (i.e., grade, size or color); or
- the cut-off date. Note: A cut-off date cannot be extended if the Ministerial Exemption has expired.
A new Ministerial Exemption must be requested with payment when the applicant wishes to increase the quantity from what was originally applied for.
A new Ministerial Exemption must be requested when the applicant wishes to change the state when importing from the United States, or change the province of receipt when moving produce interprovincially.
Appendix A: Delegates and Designated Canadian Food Inspection Agency Offices
Western Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba)
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Specialist, Agrifood Programs - Western
4321 Still Creek Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia, V5C 6S7
Program Manager, Agrifood Programs - Western
1853 Bredin Road
Kelowna, British Columbia, V1Y 7S9
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Specialist, Agrifood Programs - Ontario
174 Stone Road
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 4S9
Program Manager, Agrifood Programs - Ontario
174 Stone Road
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 4S9
Ministerial Exemptions - Regional Biofood Officer, Agrifood - Quebec
2001 University Street
Montreal, Quebec, H3A 3N2
Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Specialist, Agrifood - Quebec
2001 University Street
Montreal, Quebec, H3A 3N2
Program Manager, Agrifood Programs - Quebec
2001 University Street
Montreal, Quebec, H3A 3N2
Agrifood Specialist, Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Program - Food Programs - Atlantic
1 Regent Square
Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, A2H 6C7
Appendix B: Request for an Exemption to the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Regulations
Appendix C: Example - Ministerial Exemption
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