Obtaining a CITES export permit was the single biggest challenge we faced; it took us almost two years and was a major factor in us not being able to sustain our herb cultivation project. I have since worked with other projects in Uttarakhand who have had to spend a similar length of time trying to get a CITES permit, so it is evidently a serious issue that needs to be resolved.
CITES stands for the ‘Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species’ – an inter‐governmental agreement that has been signed by 175 different countries. At the heart of the CITES agreement is an extensive list of animal and plant species that have been identified as threatened due to over‐exploitation through international trade. Plant material from species on this list can only be traded if they have been sustainably cultivated and a CITES Export Permit issued by the relevant authority of the country.
I fully support the principle of a CITES permit – there needs to be an internationally-recognised system to control the trade and support sustainable production of threatened species. Unfortunately, the system in India is not functioning properly. There are no clear guidelines for the relevant authorities (especially the Forest Department) and – in my experience – by the time they work it out they are usually transferred, so the whole process starts again from the beginning.
We knew that it may be a difficult process so we documented every single step from the very beginning to help us keep a track of what was going on. Our experience in applying for a CITES permit ended up being a 12 page document and is definitely worth reading – it will make you laugh and cry at the same time.
After we succeeded in selling the kutki, we were commissioned by TRAFFIC India to prepare guidelines on how to apply for a CITES export permit based on our experience. The main points are available below, and the full document can be downloaded here.
Unfortunately, and perhaps predictably, we were never able to get these guidelines endorsed by any of the relevant government departments, so they remain unofficial draft guidelines. Anyone who is going through the process themselves should check with the relevant authorities of the state(s) in which they are working whether there are more up-to-date guidelines.
Guidelines for Application for Certificate of Cultivation and CITES Permit
- Registration and Cultivation
- Crop Inspections and Certificate of Cultivation
- Transportation and Transit Pass
- Selling, Buying and Exporting
- Certificate of Legal Procurement
- CITES Export Permit
- Additional Requirements for Appendix I Species
Step 1: Registration and Cultivation
The first step for any farmer who wishes to cultivate CITES-listed medicinal plant species is to register as a medicinal plant grower with the relevant authority of the state (in most cases this is the Forest Department). Registration procedures vary from state to state; in some states (such as Himachal Pradesh) farmers are required to register before planting and are issued a single registration certificate. In other states (such as in Uttarakhand) farmers are required to register after planting and are issued separate registration certificates for each medicinal plant crop.
Although rules and regulations differ from state to state, the key principles remain the same; the farmer must be registered with the relevant authority and is expected to provide them with details of all medicinal plant crops that are being cultivated on his/her private land. The relevant authority may conduct an inspection of the farm at any time to verify the farmer’s planting records and prepare a yield estimate, which will be referred to at the time of issuing a Certificate of Cultivation. The procedures for registration and cultivation described below are based on the guidelines that have been proposed by the Himachal Pradesh government in 2012. These guidelines will continue to be revised over time and farmers are advised to confirm the current procedures of their respective state authorities before starting cultivation.
Registration and Cultivation Step by Step:
- The farmer submits an application with the relevant authority to become a registered medicinal plant grower [Annexure 2]. The key details included in the application form are as follows:
- Location and size of land on which the medicinal plants will be cultivated.
- Proof of ownership of land, including copies of land revenue papers (and power of attorney in case the land is not in the farmer’s name).
- Name(s) of medicinal plants the farmer proposes to cultivate.
- Proposed origin of seeds and/or seedlings.
- The application (and all future documents) should be submitted in duplicate so that both copies can be signed and stamped by the relevant authority and one returned to the farmer for his/her records.
- Having received the application the relevant authority prepares and issues the farmer with a registration certificate [Annexure 3].
- The farmer is advised to keep the registration certificate and all other farm records and receipts safely in a folder. The relevant authority may request to see these records during an inspection.
Step 2: Crop Inspections and Certificate of Cultivation
The farmer must apply for a Certificate of Cultivation at least one month prior to the harvest. This allows the relevant authority sufficient time to inspect the crop before the harvest if required. Inspection protocols differ from state to state; some authorities may inspect the crop at the time of planting, others before harvest and/or after drying. Whichever method is used the purpose of the inspections is the same; to verify that a specific quantity of dried medicinal plant material has been cultivated on the farmer’s land. The quantity written in the Inspection Report will subsequently be used in the Certificate of Cultivation.
In some cases, instead of inspecting the medicinal plant material before the harvest and after drying, the relevant authority may do a single inspection of the crop while it is in the ground. If this is the case they will rely on the yield estimates given in the Planting Records and/or Inspection Report to prepare the Certificate of Cultivation. This approach is usually only valid if the relevant authority has sufficient knowledge of the species to be confident that a) they can accurately predict the survival rate of the crop in a given location and b) they have sufficient data from previous harvests to be able to accurately predict how many kgs of dried material will be produced from a given area of land.
A Certificate of Cultivation will be issued after the relevant authority has studied the Inspection Report(s), and if necessary cross-checked the details with Planting Records and any other relevant documents in the farmer’s dossier. Once the farmer has been issued the Certificate of Cultivation he/she can pass it on to the buyer who in turn can use it as evidence that the medicinal plant material came from a cultivated source. The buyer may subsequently pass the CoC to the next buyer in the supply chain, or use it to apply for a CLP and CITES Export Permit.
Application for Certificate of Cultivation:
- The farmer submits an application for a Certificate of Cultivation at least one month prior to the date of harvest [Annexure 5]. The key details in the application form are as follows:
- Details of farmer’s registration: date of registration and registration no.
- Details of crop to be harvested: Botanical/common names, month and year of planting, land revenue no., area of land/no. of plants, origin of seeds / seedlings.
- Expected date of harvest and estimated yield.
Inspections by the Relevant Authority:
- The relevant authority is usually expected to inspect the farm twice, once before the harvest and once after the harvest. In some cases there may only be a single inspection.
- The first inspection is usually conducted while the plants are still in the ground. The purpose of this inspection is to assess the size and condition of the crop and, where possible, to prepare an estimated yield [Annexure 6].
- The second inspection is usually conducted after the crop has been harvested and the medicinal plant material has been dried. The purpose of this inspection is to confirm the quantity of dried material for which a Certificate of Cultivation will be issued.
- Having received the inspection reports and cross-checked the details with the Planting Records in the farmer’s dossier the relevant authority issues a Certificate of Cultivation [Annexure 7].
Step 3: Transportation and Transit Pass
Before transporting any medicinal plant material from the farm the farmer must apply for a transit pass (known in some states as an ‘exit pass’). The rules and regulations for issuing transit passes vary from state to state; in some states it is the responsibility of the Pradhan of the Gram Panchayat to issue transit passes, in others it is the DFO. In some states the authority to issue a transit pass differs depending on the species and means of production used. If there is any doubt about the procedures the applicant should seek clarification from the Forest Department.
The transit pass clearly states the origin and destination of the journey and the route that the vehicle carrying the medicinal plant material must take. Along the route there will be a number of Forest Checkposts where a copy of the transit pass must be submitted and the attached transit pass challan signed and stamped. The signed transit pass and challan is an essential document for any company that wishes to apply for a CLP and CITES Export Permit.
Transit Pass Procedures
- As soon as the material is ready for transporting from the farm the farmer requests the relevant authority to issue a transit pass. The address of the origin and destination must be clearly specified.
- In some states the farmer will need to pay a royalty to the Panchayat. The royalty fee usually differs from species to species. If in doubt the farmer should seek clarification from the relevant authority.
- If the medicinal plant material is being sold to a local exporter, the transit pass must be issued in the farmer’s name from the farm to the exporter’s depot. The exporter must then apply for a separate transit pass to transport the material from his/her depot to the next destination.
- A copy of the transit pass must be prepared for each checkpost along the route that the vehicle will take. The copy is to be submitted and the challan signed and stamped [Annexures 11 & 12
Step 4: Selling, Buying and Exporting
In most cases, rather than directly exporting the medicinal plant material to a foreign buyer, the farmer will sell to a domestic trader or exporter, who will apply for the CLP and CITES export permit. Each time the medicinal plant material is sold, the seller must prepare an affidavit on stamp paper as proof of the transfer of ownership. In addition to the affidavit the seller must provide the buyer with copies of all transit passes that have been used and the original Certificate of Cultivation. The points below summarise the key documents that are required when selling or buying the medicinal plant material.
Selling & Buying Procedures:
- The seller must prepare an affidavit on stamp paper in a court located in the same district as the seller’s farm (or depot) stating that he/she has sold ‘x’ kg material to the buyer [Annexure 13].
- The seller must provide the buyer with the original Certificate of Cultivation.
- The seller must provide the buyer with a copy of all transit passes that have been used to transport the medicinal plant material from the farm to the buyer’s depot.
- In most states the trader/exporter will be required to have a depot that is registered with the relevant authority.
- The exporter must have an EXIM code and all other legal requirements for export (refer to list of other documents required by the CITES Management Authority in section 7).
Step 5: Certificate of Legal Procurement
A Certificate of Legal Procurement (CLP) is the primary document required by the CITES Management Authority in order for them to issue the exporter with a CITES export permit. Formerly known as a Legal Procurement Certificate, many states still refer to it as an ‘LPC’ and the original LPC formats continue to be accepted by the CITES Management Authority. The CLP is very similar to the Certificate of Cultivation, the main difference is that it requires the Forest Department (or equivalent authority) to seal and stamp the sacks before it is issued. The sacks will then remain sealed until they pass through customs, at which point some will be opened, checked and re-sealed, and will only be opened again once they have reached the consignee.
In most cases the applicant will be preparing to transport the medicinal plant material to the port of dispatch and will therefore need to apply for a transit pass at the same time as the Certificate of Legal Procurement. The guidelines below describe the system that was in place in Himachal Pradesh in 2011. Procedures may change over time or vary from state to state; farmers should therefore seek clarification of the procedures from the relevant authority in advance of application.
- Before submitting an application for a CLP the exporter should have completed all processing (sorting, grading etc.) and packed the material in sacks ready to be inspected and sealed prior to dispatch.
- The exporter should have prepared a ‘packing list’ with details of the number of sacks, the weight of material in each sack and the total weight of the whole consignment.
- Each sack should be clearly labeled with details of the contents of the sack, including botanical and common names of the species, the form of the material (e.g. dried roots), gross weight and net weight, the sack no. (e.g. 2 of 7), and the name, address and contact details of the exporter and the consignee.
- The applicant submits an application for the CLP and transit pass [Annexure 8]. The following documents will need to be submitted along with the application:
- Copy of Certificate of cultivation
- Affidavit providing evidence that the material has been purchased from the farmer
- Copy of transit passes used to transport material from farm to depot (if applicable)
- Depot documents (if required)
- Copy of label used on the sacks
- Copy of packing list
Inspection of Material and Sealing of Sacks
- Having received the application the relevant authority will arrange for an official to visit the exporter’s depot, inspect the material, check the weight and seal the sacks. The official will require a blank CLP form so that it can be signed and stamped with the same stamp that is used on the seals on the sacks.
CLP Countersigned and Endorsement Letter sent to CITES
- The stamped CLP form is taken to the office of the DFO of the division in which the depot is located, where it is countersigned and a copy given to the applicant [Annexure 9].
- A transit pass for transporting the medicinal plant material from the exporter’s depot to the port of dispatch is usually issued by the DFO at the same time as issuing the CLP.
- Once the CLP has been issued, the DFO (or equivalent authority) prepares an endorsement letter [Annexure 10]; a copy of this letter is given to the exporter and the original is sent to the CITES Management Authority. Copies of the following documents should be attached to the endorsement letter:
- Certificate of Legal Procurement
- Transit pass
- Packing list
- The endorsement letter informs the CITES Management Authority that a representative of the exporter will hand over the original documents along with an application for a CITES export permit.
- Once the CLP and Transit Pass has been issued and the endorsement letter sent to the CITES Management Authority, the exporting company may transport the material to the port of dispatch (as per Transit Rules of the state as described in section 3).
Step 6: CITES Export Permit
A CITES Export Permit is issued by the CITES Management Authority of the Region in which the application is being made. The permit can be issued to any individual, cooperative, organisation or company that is legally authorised to export medicinal plant material and has met the documentation requirements as described below.
- The applicant must wait until the CITES Management Authority has received the endorsement letter and supporting documents from the relevant authority, as mentioned in section 5.
- Once the documents have been received the applicant can submit the final application along with a sample (approx. 25-50g) of the material. The final application should contain the following supporting documents:
- Copy of endorsement letter from the DFO
- Certificate of Legal Procurement
- Copy of Transit Pass
- Copy of label with details of farmer, registered depot and exporter
- Packing List (details of number of sacks and their contents)
- Affidavit as proof of purchase from farmer
- Company’s Certificate of Incorporation
- Authorised signatory declaration
- IEC Code
- Copy of Export Invoice
- Any documents that are copies of the originals must be attested by an authorised signatory of the exporter (along with a declaration from the company confirming who are the authorised signatories).
- Once all the documents have been approved the CITES Export Permit can be issued [Annexure 14]. The exporter will be provided with three copies: one for customs, another to be sent along with the consignment and one for the exporter for the company’s records.
Step 7: Export
The most important point to consider when exporting a consignment of CITES-listed medicinal plant material is that the CITES export permit needs to be endorsed as it passes through customs. The endorsement must include written verification of the quantity of material in the allocated space at the bottom of the permit. If the shipping agent is not familiar with these procedures, the exporter should draw his attention to this requirement so that he can issue instructions to the concerned CHA (customs house agent).
The exporter should also check that the buyer has obtained all the required permits to import CITES-listed plant material into the destination country. The rules and regulations for importing CITES-listed species vary from country to country and it is advised that the buyer clarifies the legal requirements well in advance of sending the consignment.
Recommended procedures for export
- Ensure that the shipping agent is familiar with the procedures for exporting CITES-listed medicinal plant material.
- Ensure that the CITES export permit is endorsed as the material goes through customs.
- Find out what are the import requirements in the country to which the material is being sent well in advance of sending the consignment. Ensure that the buyer has all the required import permits.
- The exporter should be aware that CITES-listed medicinal plant material can only be shipped from the following 7 ports:
Additional Requirements for Appendix I Species
Medicinal plant species listed under appendix I of CITES are also protected under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972 and are subject to regulations described in chapter IIIA and schedule VI. This means that, in addition to the procedures described in sections 1 to 7, farmers, traders or exporters wishing to cultivate and/or export species listed under appendix I of CITES are required to procure a license from the Chief Wildlife Warden of the state. Under CITES regulations the farmer must also register his/her nursery or cultivated land with the CITES Secretariat, who will issue a registration certificate that will be required when applying for a CITES export permit.
Certificate of Cultivation
A Certificate of Cultivation is a document issued by the relevant authority to the farmer as proof that a specified quantity of medicinal plant material has been cultivated on the farmer’s land. This can be used by the farmer or the buyer to apply for a Certificate of Legal Procurement.
Certificate of Legal Procurement (CLP)
Formerly known as Legal Procurement Certificate (LPC), under new DGFT rules this is now known as a Certificate of Legal Procurement (CLP). The CLP is very similar to the Certificate of Cultivation except that it can only be issued after the medicinal plant material has been sealed and stamped in the presence of the relevant authority. The CLP is the key document required by the CITES Management Authority in order to issue a CITES export permit.
A Transit Pass is a document issued by the government that permits a farmer, or trader, to transport a specified quantity of medicinal plant material from one location to another. The transit pass is stamped by officials at Forest Department checkposts during the journey, which provides evidence that it has come from where the origin stated on the transit pass.
CITES Export Permit
A CITES Export Permit is issued to an exporter that can provide proof that a specified quantity of medicinal plant material is from a cultivated origin. The permit is valid for that shipment, and a new application needs to be made for each subsequent export.