Doing Business in Canada

Please note: this tool is currently unavailable as it is being revised to reflect extensive changes under the new Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. Please contact CPMA directly at (+1) 613-226-4187 or for any inquiries related to Doing Business in Canada. Members will be notified when the updates are available.

CPMA offers members a check list of necessary procedures to prepare your company for the challenges that may arise when marketing fresh produce. Whether you are importing or exporting into Canada, exporting from Canada or selling your products inter-provincially or intra-provincially, it is important for your company to be aware of the varying requirements it will face. After the product is sourced, documentation requirements must be assessed and if all are not completed, the shipment is jeopardized from the outset. Not only may the shipment be held up, but penalties may be levied for incorrect completion or omissions on forms. It is important to establish what is needed for your specific commodity and the timelines that are necessary to be successful in the process. This site also provides members with an outline of the paperwork required and links to sites that can provide you with on regulations and guidelines from Canadian government departments. The health and safety of Canadians is a top priority for government departments. In order to avoid any delays in clearing at the border, be well prepared to assure officials that the shipment has followed all the necessary procedures.

Part 1: Importing, Non-Resident Importers and Exporting to Canada

Trade of fresh fruits and vegetables between Canada and its international partners is a multi-billion dollar business. Canadian consumers have access to a staggering variety of fresh and nutritious produce year round. Given Canada’s climactic challenges, the supply of produce must be subsidized by a reliable, efficient and cost-effective import system. When the seasons do permit growing of Canadian produce, the supply chain efficiencies utilized by the industry results in a bounty of product which drives robust domestic and export markets.

Long standing and new regulatory requirements in Canada, the US and globally require that all participants along the supply chain understand the various regulations they may have to navigate. Understanding these requirements is critical to ensuring the efficient flow of fresh produce. Shipments which do not meet the regulatory requirements are more likely to be held, inspected and possibly rejected when crossing through international border ports.

Although not explicitly covered in this document, it is also important that any business to business agreements are well understood by both the buyer and seller. Conflicts in these areas can lead to disputes which must be negotiated by independent organizations (i.e. the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC) or by government services such as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) Destination Inspection Service (DIS).

Part 2: Interprovincial and Intraprovincial Trade

In Part 1 of Doing Business in Canada we covered product which is being imported/exported into Canada. Part 2 will cover trade between provinces (interprovincial) and within a single province (intraprovincial).

The Constitution of Canada (Constitution) provides the legal underpinning of the governance of the country, including the rights and responsibilities of the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Under the Constitution, the federal government has jurisdiction for both international and interprovincial trade, including fresh fruit and vegetables (FF&V). As such,  all federal laws and regulations associated with trade in FF&V, are applicable for interprovincial trade. An example under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR) is the requirement for a license, with some exceptions, for companies who trade in FF&V across provincial borders. These transactions are considered to be importing or exporting activities, depending on which end of the transaction an organization operates. Unlike previous regulations, the SFCR categorizes businesses based on the activities they perform, rather than the categories they trade in.

Intraprovincial trade, with some exceptions (such as labelling), is the purview of the provincial governments; in some cases, responsibility is also passed to the municipal level. The way in which laws and their associated regulations are enforced is codified within the acts themselves. For example, health care can be a split responsibility between a provincial health agency and the municipal health departments. Agriculture is usually controlled at the provincial level, with some outreach to municipalities as required. Municipalities are also able to pass by-laws, which are applicable and enforced in only that jurisdiction.

FF&V organizations that trade interprovincially or internationally are required to comply with federal regulations. In some cases, however, there may also be provincial regulations which are applicable. This is particularly true for products sold in Quebec. Intraprovincial organizations may also be impacted if their products are shipped out of province by a customer or other third-party entity. It is important for organizations to understand the supply chains their products are, or may be, moved through so that they can ensure compliance with the correct regulatory regimes.


The information contained within this document should be considered as a primer. We recommend all members utilize the information available through government resources and that they check the applicable regulations occasionally to ensure ongoing compliance. CPMA actively engages with government on all regulatory changes affecting the industry and we are always available to support members with respect to the relevant regulations.