Imports and export of biological material


Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) is a regulatory body mandated to regulate importation and exportation of plant and plant products in the country. The process involves issuance of relevant import/export documents, inspection of imported materials, certification of export material and inspection of containment facilities. The main aim of regulating plant and plant products is to prevent introduction of harmful organisms into the country hence protecting our agriculture and environment.


1. Importation of all plants and plant products are classified into three categories according to the Importation Order Book that contains all import requirements for plant and plant products. These are:-

a. Importation under permit. Importation of these materials pose a low risk of introducing harmful pests and diseases hence only a plant import permit is required. The materials are handed over to the own upon importation and inspection at the point of entry.

b. Importation under quarantine: Importation of these materials has a risk of introducing harmful pests and diseases.  Some pests and diseases occur mainly in latent form thus cannot be detected during inspection at the point of entry hence the need for containment. Most of these requests require approval from the Kenya Standing Technical Committee on Import and Export. (KSTCIE) which is chaired by the Ministry of Agriculture and has a secretariat at KEPHIS. Before importation a containment facility to be used in holding the imported quarantine material should be inspected and approved by KEPHIS before a plant import permit is issued. The permit is issue with a Q label (Quarantine label yellow in color) which should be affixed to the exterior of the consignment during shipment. Upon importation, the material is inspected and forwarded to approve quarantine facility for further observation. The containment facility is inspected regularly by KEPHIS to check for quarantine pests and adherence to approval conditions. 

c. Prohibited: Importation of these materials have a very high risk of introducing harmful pests and diseases which will have adverse effect on crops and or plants of major importance to the country. Importation of these materials is not allowed unless under special permission or approval from KSTCIE. Example include Tea, Sugarcane etc

Note: Condition for importation depends on the part of the plant being imported and country of origin.

2. Importation of regulated articles: These are non-plant materials or products which are likely to carry harmful pests and diseases or they are of phytosanitary concern by themselves. For instance soil, biological control agents, GMOs, RNA/DNA, pathogens and pests for research purpose etc. These materials require special approval from KSTCIE. Before approval, the imported is expected to provide a dossier about the product which is evaluated and a risk assessment undertaken. Approval for plant GMOs is approved by National Biosafety Authority (NBA) after risk assessment and implemented by KEPHIS. A biological import permit is issued for the importation of GMOs, bio-control agents, and pests and pathogens for research purpose.

Note: A plant import permit application form which is available on KEPHIS website should be filled to facilitate issuance of Import Permit. 


All plant and plant product exported from the country require a phytosanitary certificate as per the regulation. Export conditions are usually provided by the importing country and this is contained in their plant import permit.  A Plant Import Permit is required from the importing country to facility inspection and issuance of Phytosanitary certificate as they declare import condition. Trade in CITIES material require prior approval from KWS before issuance of import permit. A phytosanitary certificate application form which is available should be filled to facilitate issuance of phytosanitary certificate.


a) GMOs 

Regulation for importation and movement of GMOs is undertaken with approval from National Biosafety Authority (NBA). After approval, KEPHIS is required to issue relevant import and movement documents. A biological import permit is required for the importation of GMOs while a movement permit is require for movement of GMO from one facility to the other within the country. All containment facility for GMOs should be approved by KEPHIS and NBA while GMO activities are monitored regularly by KEPHIS.

b) Biological control 

A biological import permit is required for the importation of these regulated articles after approval by KSTCIE and approval for the containment facility. Biological Import Permit (BIP) stipulates the intended use of the imported material and give condition to be followed during importation. Further permission is required for movement of release of the biological control agent through KSTCIE.

C. FORMS (Link)

Process of obtaining a permit/licence 

1. Send an email to s.wanjiru@cgiar .org detailing your intent to either import of export a plant or plant product at least 3-4 days in advance.

2. For importation of plant and plant products into the country submit the following form duly filled and signed, Plant importation Permit Application form (Link)

3. For Exportation of Plant and Plant products in the country submit the following form to the safety office duly filled and signed, Phytosanitary Application form(link)

4. Ensure for a phytosanitary application you already have an import permit from the recipient as it is required to be submitted together with the application.

5. The permit will be processed in 3-4 days from application date and an email with a scanned copy of the permit will be sent once its ready.

6. Provide the charge code of the project as this will be used for transport arrangements.

D FEES (Link)

Fees will be paid by EOHS office and refundable once the receipt and permit has been obtained. Projects can decide to pay upfront for the permits.

• The fees required for a Plant Import Permit is currently at Kshs 600

• The fees required for a Phytosanitary Application is currently at Kshs 500

• The fees required for a Biological Import Permit is currently at Kshs 600