Grey Shallots Plant Import Restrictions
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: John Bradley
Posted on: April 26, 2003

You guys are confusing me. I’m trying to buy grey shallots but your web site says there is a "Due to plant import restrictions, this item can only be shipped within Canada". Is this just for shallots because you’re calling seeds or bulbs plants which they are not? But then on this web site "http://www.richters.com/show.cgi?page=./ordrinfo.html" you are selling plants without restrictions to the United States.

I’m getting confused, what’s up with this?

Agricultural regulations can be quite confusing and seemingly nonsensical – we share your frustration! Each country has different rules, and the rules of a country can differ depending on whether you are importing seeds, plants or parts of plants.

Most of our seeds and plants are approved for shipping to the U.S. under USDA programs that are administered by our Canadian agricultural authorities. There are a few exceptions such as hops plants and plants and seeds of rue that are prohibited or restricted by the USDA. These are indicated in our printed catalogue with the words "Not to..."

Shallot bulbs are treated differently from seeds and plants. The USDA has special restrictions for bulbs of the onion family. Generally there are special tests that have to be performed on onion-family bulbs, and the importer has to apply for an import permit from the USDA first. This process is expensive and time-consuming, and only makes sense for large wholesale shipments, not for the typical orders that home gardeners and small farmers would make. However, to illustrate the complexity of USDA rules, we can ship shallot seeds to the U.S. without restriction. But the grey shallot variety is unfortunately not available in seed form.

Plus, you are not importing plants, you are exporting seeds or bulbs not importing.

Well, yes and no. We take our plants to Buffalo, New York, and ship from there. That means we are both the exporter and the importer. Essentially, we handle all of the customs clearance issues ourselves so our customers receive our plants without border delays or costs. Seeds, on the other hand, are generally shipped by mail from Canada, so in this case we are still the exporter but our customers are officially the importer for customs purposes.

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