In other words...a letter arrived from italian customs. Oh happy day!
Sometime in the middle of June this year, my father had sent a gift of vegetable seeds from Hawaii. He was told that it would take a total of approximately 10 days to reach Italy, and I awaited its arrival in the mailbox. At this point I would like to say that I have never had any problems with 2 previous seed orders from the United States. If a parcel has been subjected to inspection by italian customs (and it has already happened once in my case), it is clearly evident upon delivery: a clean slit is made at the top of the package, neatly resealed with strong tape, and legibly stamped with the words Effettuato Controllo Doganale.
Imagine my horror, then, when I received a registered notice in the mail informing me that my garden seeds were being quarantined for reasons of questionable origin. As I said earlier, the seeds were a gift. My father gave a rough value estimate on the green declarations form when he sent it, but being that it was a gift, did not include a receipt for its monetary value. For all I know he could have bought seeds from Walmart and thrown them in an envelope.
Now I am aware of certain restrictions in regards to foreign seeds entering Europe, but the conclusion I have come to is that as far as Italy is concerned, as long as those seeds are not genetically modified and you heed certain limitations, your seeds will arrive intact, if not delayed, at your doorstep. Since this is the first time where I've come across problems with italian customs, the following notes might prove helpful to a gardener ordering/receiving an overseas delivery. If you receive a notice in the mail with a form like the one shown here, fill it out as best you can and send it along with the required documents to the proper address.
1. If a gift of seeds is being sent in the mail and you know about it beforehand, ask the sender to compile a list of the contents with receipt of purchase attached. The amount should match the total written on the declarations form.
2. Seeds should be packaged in commercial envelopes that illustrate what it is. I've read about an incident where a woman in Switzerland simply wanted to send garden seeds to her friend in Italy, but since those seeds were not readily identifiable by customs, they sent her a form just like the one I received and requested further information, such as the sender's address (already written on the envelope). The thing is, if the contents are a gift, there is not much info to pass on, especially if you have no idea what type of seeds are in the package. Here's the link (in italian) to this poor woman's headache with the dogana.
3. And lastly, the english translation of a form regarding small quantities (plants admitted in derogation). I had a vague idea of what derogation meant in legal terms, but here's a link to the definition. Suffice to say that I did not receive my seeds because of one reason only - the amount of seed packets exceeded the maximum limit of 5! Odd that my previous seed orders all contained more than a total of 10.
Small quantities (plants admitted in derogation)
Provided that they are not prohibited and there is no danger of spreading harmful organisms, under Article. 38 of 214/2005 the introduction of small quantities of plants is permitted.
The status of small quantity is applied to both delivered and directly transported goods by the passenger.
Considered as small quantity: plants, plant products, foodstuffs or animal feed intended for use by the owner or recipient in a non-industrial, non-commercial, non-agricultural purpose, or to be consumed during transport.
Such goods can also be subjected to agricultural inspection; is not required to be accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate of origin; and is not subject to the ag inspection fee.
If a person intends to import a small quantity he should only absolve the obligation to submit to the SFR a declaration in lieu of an affidavit, in which it specifies that the products are not imported for industrial, commercial or agricultural purposes. The reference values that identify small quantities are those as specified below:
Type and quantity
Leafy vegetables and small fruits (cherries, blueberries) - two (2) kilos
Other fruits and vegetables (excluding potatoes) - ten (10) kilos
Cut flowers - one (1) bouquet, forty (40) stems max
Succulents for collection - ten (10) units
Plants of ornamental, vegetable, fruit or forest species - five (5) units
Bulbs, corms, rhizones, tubers (exluding potatoes) - one (1) kilo
Seeds (excluding seed potatoes) - five (5) commercial packets or for retail (max 2 grams per package)
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