From 19 October 2017, use of the electronic Trade Control and Expert System (“TRACES”) will become mandatory for all importers of organic products from outside of the EU. Organic imports may only be placed on the European Single Market if they are covered by a certificate of inspection issued by competent authorities. The certificate ensures that organic imports are produced in accordance with EU production rules and are subject to control arrangements that are compliant with, or equivalent to, those provided under EU law. Starting on 19 October 2017, these certificates of inspection will only be able to be issued electronically on TRACES.

Until the use of TRACES becomes mandatory, certificates of inspection shall be issued by the relevant control authority, endorsed by the relevant Member State's competent authority and completed by the first consignee on the basis of the model and the notes set out in Annex V Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/1842 and using TRACES. The original certificate of inspection may either be a printed and hand-signed copy of the completed electronic certificate in TRACES or, a certificate of inspection signed in TRACES with an advanced electronic signature. When the original certificate of inspection is a printed and hand-signed copy of the completed electronic certificate in TRACES, control authorities, relevant Member State's competent authorities and the first consignee shall verify at each stage of shipment that this copy corresponds to the information indicated in TRACES.

TRACES is an online management tool designed to digitise both the entire certification process regarding imports of livestock, food, and food products. It is accessible 24 hours a day to ensure trade partners and competent authorities can always obtain information regarding the movements of their consignments, and to improve the related administrative procedures.

On 19 April 2017, a new module for imported organic products was integrated in TRACES. It was implemented to address previously-raised concerns about the efficiency of monitoring the movements of these products and the consistency of import checks. It aims to improve import traceability, reduce potential fraud, and provide more comprehensive statistical data on imports of these items.

It is necessary to register as a user before using TRACES. Registration is free and can be done here.

Click here for a link to Regulation (EU) 2016/1842 of 14 October 2016 (amending Regulation (EC) No 1235/2008 as regards the electronic certificate of inspection for imported organic products and certain other elements, and Regulation (EC) No 889/2008 as regards the requirements for preserved or processed organic products and the transmission of information).