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Customs Clearance Procedure for Food Items Livestock Products Plant and Plant Materials


Customs Clearance Procedure for Food Items, Livestock Products, Plant and Plant Materials.
Notification No.44(RE-2000)/1997-2002, dated 24.11.2000:
Notification No.3(RE-2001)/1997-2002, dated 31.3.2001:
The PFS Order, 1989:
The Livestock Importation Act, 1898:
Customs Clearance Procedure for Food Items:
Customs Clearance Procedure for Livestock Products:
Plant/Plant Materials for Sowing/Planting/Propagation/Consumption
Reference:

Customs Clearance Procedure for Food Items, Livestock Products, Plant and Plant Materials.

  1. The Government has enacted several laws to regulate importation of food items, livestock products, plant materials and other agricultural commodities into the country. The import of plants and plant materials is regulated as per the Plants, Fruits, Seeds (Regulation of Import into India) Order{PFS} Order, 1989 issued under the Destructive Insects & Pests Act, 1914 to prevent introduction of exotic pests and diseases into the country. The Livestock Importation Act, 1898 regulates the imports of livestock and livestock products in a manner that such imports do not adversely affect the health of human and animal population of the country. As per the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, any product not fulfilling the statutory provisions is not allowed to be imported into the country. Likewise, there are several rules, regulations, orders, notifications, etc. issued by the Government, laying down procedures as to how the imports of above products are to be dealt with. The Customs has a pivotal role to play because, it is the agency stationed at the border to enforce the rules, regulations and orders issued by various administrative Ministries.
  2. Until very recently, the general awareness about various rules and regulations on importation of food items, livestock products, plant materials and other agricultural commodities was somewhat limited because, the bulk of the items were not allowed to be imported into the country. The licensing mechanism itself acted as a check on unbridled imports. The situation has changed after removal of Quantitative Restrictions with effect from 1.4.2001. Now there is a real danger of import of these items flooding the market which could, unless regulated properly, adversely affect the health and safety of our human and animal population. The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures enables member countries to take sanitary and phytosanitary measures necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with the provisions of this Agreement. The Agreement permits the member countries to carry out a detailed import risk analysis for applying sanitary and phytosanitary measures. Consistent with our obligations under the WTO, the Government has issued several orders, notifications, etc. in recent months to regulate the importation of food items, livestock products, plant materials and other agricultural commodities, more important of which are mentioned below.

Notification No.44(RE-2000)/1997-2002, dated 24.11.2000:

  1. In November, 2000, the Director General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) had issued a notification {No.44 (RE-2000)/1997-2002, dated 24.11.2000} to regulate the imports of packaged commodities into India. As per this notification, all packaged products, which are subject to the provisions of the Standards of Weights and Measures (Packaged Commodities) Rules, 1977, when produced/packed/sold in the domestic market, shall be subject to compliance of all the provisions of the said Rules, when imported into India. It is provided that compliance of the provisions of the notification shall be ensured by the Customs before the consignments are cleared for home consumption. The notification further states that all pre-packaged commodities imported into India shall, in particular, carry the declarations, such as, name and address of the importer, net quantity, month and year of packing and maximum retail price. It has been clarified by the DGFT vide Circular No.38(RE-2000)/1997-2002, dated 22.1.2001 that the labeling requirements is applicable only to imports of those pre-packaged commodities which are intended for retail sale. As imported raw materials, components, bulk imports, etc. would invariably undergo further processing or assembly before they are sold to consumers, these imports shall not invite the application of labeling requirements.

Notification No.3(RE-2001)/1997-2002, dated 31.3.2001:

  1. In the wake of removal of quantitative restrictions, the DGFT has issued a notification No.3(RE-2001)/1997-2002, dated 31.3.2001 for regulating import of meat and poultry products, edible/food products and primary agricultural products. As per this notification import of meat and poultry products will be subject to the compliance of conditions regarding manufacture, slaughter, packing, labeling and quality conditions as laid down in Meat Food Products Order, 1973. The notification also states that all manufacturers of meat/poultry products exporting their goods to India shall be required to meet the sanitary and hygienic requirements as stipulated under Schedule-II of the aforementioned Order. The imported product shall also comply with the specified packaging, labeling and quality standards as laid down in Schedule-IV of the Order. It is provided that the Customs has to ensure compliance of these conditions before allowing clearance of the consignments.
  2. In regard to edible/food products, the notification stipulates that the import of such products, domestic sale and manufacture of which are governed by Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954, shall be subject to all the conditions laid down in the said Act. Import of all these products thus will have to comply with the quality and packaging requirements as laid down in the aforesaid Act. The notification enjoins Customs to ensure compliance of these conditions before allowing clearance of the consignments.
  3.  Further, as per the aforesaid notification, import of all primary agricultural commodities will be subject to a Bio Security & Sanitary-Phytosanitary Import Permit, to be issued by Department of Agriculture and Co-operation, as per conditions of PFS Order, 1989. The Permit will be based on import risk analysis of the product, to be conducted on scientific principles, in accordance with the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. The import risk analysis will be conducted based on various scientific principles, including inter alia, (a) the type of pests etc. known to be associated with the particular product in the exporting country; (b) the organisms already established in India; and (c) the potential impact of such organisms on India’s international trade.

The PFS Order, 1989:

  1. As mentioned earlier, import of plants and plant materials into the country is regulated under the Destructive Insects & Pests (DIP) Act, 1914 and the PFS Order, 1989. The PFS Order, 1989 was amended in 1992 to exempt the requirement of Import Permit in respect of plants, fruits, seeds and any other material of plant origin imported for consumption. Further, such material imported as accompanied baggage and through international postal channels was also allowed to be imported without a Phytosanitary Certificate or an Import Permit. The Ministry of Agriculture (Department of Agriculture & Co-operation) has since issued a notification on 1.5.2001 amending the provisions of the PFS Order introduced in 1992. As per the amendment made, with effect from 1.6.2001 no consignment shall be imported even for consumption unless it is accompanied by an Import Permit (and also, of course by an Official Phytosanitary Certificate) issued by the authorised officer. However, cut flowers, garlands, bouquets, fruits and vegetables weighing less than 2 Kgs. imported for personal consumption is allowed without a Phytosanitary Certificate or an Import Permit. Likewise, the relaxation of Import Permit for import of (a) Mushroom Spawn Culture by 100% Export Oriented Units; (b) tissue culture materials of any plant origin and flower seeds granted earlier will continue.

The Livestock Importation Act, 1898:

  1. The Livestock Importation Act, 1898 has been recently amended vide the Livestock Importation (Amendment) Ordinance, 2001 which was promulgated on 5.7.2001. Prior to amendment, the said Act was applicable only for livestock whereas the livestock products were not regulated under the Act. The amendment to the said Act has been made to regulate the import of livestock products in such a manner that these imports do not adversely affect the human and animal health population of the country. Under the said Livestock Importation Act, 1898, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying has issued a notification on 7.7.2001 to regulate the import of livestock products, namely, (i) meat and meat products of all kinds including fresh, chilled and forzen meat, tissue or organs of poultry, pig, sheep, goat; (ii) egg and egg powder; (iii) milk and milk products; (iv) bovine, ovine and caprine embryos, ova or semen; and (v) pet food products of animal origin. A procedure has also been laid down to regulate such imports. The notification, inter-alia, provides that import of livestock products will be allowed against valid sanitary import permit issued by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying and the same will be allowed only through the airports and seaports at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai which have Animal Quarantine and Certification Services Stations.
  2. Taking note of various developments referred to above, the Central Board of Excise & Customs has issued detailed instructions, laying down procedures for clearance of food articles, livestock products, plant and plant materials.

Customs Clearance Procedure for Food Items:

  1. Circular No.36/2001-Customs dated 15.6.2001 (issued from F.No.450/21/98-CUS.IV) lays down detailed guidelines for examination and testing of food items prior to customs clearance. This circular enjoins Customs to undertake certain general checks in addition to testing of samples. First, the Customs should check the condition of the hold in which the products were transported. This is basically to see whether they meet the requirements of storage as per the nature of the product, and does not in any way cause deterioration or contamination of the products. In the second place, the Customs is required to check the physical/visual appearance of goods in terms of possible damage – whether it is swollen or bulged in appearance and also for rodent/insect contamination or presence of filth, dirt, etc. The third important thing is compliance of labeling requirements under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules and the Packaged Commodities Rules. This includes ensuring that the label is written not only in any foreign language, but also in English. The details of ingredients in descending order, date of manufacture, batch number, best before date, etc. are other mandatory requirements. Further, all products will also have to indicate details of best before on all food packages. The Customs should check that imported food articles meet the above labeling requirements. Recently, the DGFT has issued a notification {No.22(RE-2001/1997-2002) dated 30.7.2001 to the effect that the imported food item, at the time of its import, should have a valid shelf life of not less than 60% of original shelf life. In other words, the time period between ‘best before date’ and ‘date of import’ should be at least 60% of time period between ‘date of manufacture’ and ‘best before date’. The Customs has to ensure that the food articles which do not meet this condition are not allowed clearance for home consumption.
  2. Apart from the general checks referred to above, all the consignments of edible/food products imported through Ports, Inland Container Depots (ICDs), Air Cargo Complexes (ACCs), Container Freight Stations (CFSs) and Land Customs Stations (LCSs) are required to be referred to the Port Health Officer (PHO) for testing. For alleviating the difficulties of importers it has been decided that pending receipt of the test report, such consignments can be allowed to be stored in warehouses under section 49 of the Customs Act, 1962. The circular makes it clear that clearance for home use will be allowed only after receipt of the test report. If the product fails the test, the Customs authorities will ensure that the goods are re-exported out of the country by following the usual adjudication procedure or destroyed as required under the relevant rules. As regards ICDs/CFSs/Ports/ACCs/LCSs where PHOs are not available, the Customs is required to draw the samples and get them tested from the nearest Central Food Laboratory or a Laboratory authorised to conduct such testing by the Directorate General of Health Services.
  3. In addition to testing of food items under the PFA Act, 1954, these items shall also be subject to examination/testing to ensure compliance of the requirements of other Acts, Regulations and Orders such as Meat Food Products Order, 1973, PFS Order, 1989, the Livestock Importation Act, etc., if applicable, before these are allowed clearance into the country.

Customs Clearance Procedure for Livestock Products:

  1. The livestock products, namely, (i) meat and meat products of all kinds including fresh, chilledand frozen meat, tissue or organs of poultry, pig, sheep, goat; (ii) egg and egg powder; (iii) milk and milk products; (iv) bovine, ovine and caprine embryos, ova or semen; and (v) pet food products of animal origin are allowed to be imported only against a sanitary import permit issued by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying. For this purpose, a detailed import risk analysis is carried out and a sanitary import permit is issued only after the concerned authorities are satisfied that the import of the consignment will not adversely affect the health of the animal and human population of this country. The Import Permit lays down the specific conditions that will have to be fulfilled in respect of the consignment, including pre-shipment certifications and quarantine checks. The Permit also specifies the post-import requirements with regard to quarantine inspection, sampling and testing. The Import Permit is generally issued for a period of six months and can be extended by the concerned authorities for a further period of six months.
  2. As mentioned earlier, the livestock products are allowed to be imported into India only through the sea ports or airports located at Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, where the Animal Quarantine and Certification Services Stations are located. On arrival at the port/seaport, the livestock product is required to be inspected by the officer in-charge of the Animal Quarantine and Certification Services Station or any other veterinary officer duly authorised by the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying. After inspection and testing, wherever required, quarantine clearance is accorded by the concerned quarantine or veterinary authority for the entry of the livestock product into India. If required in public interest, the quarantine or veterinary authority may also order the destruction of the livestock product or its return to the country of origin.
  3. Wherever any disinfection or any other treatment is considered necessary in respect of any livestock product, it is the importer who on his own or at his cost has to arrange for disinfection or other treatment of the consignment under the supervision of a duly authorised quarantine or veterinary officer.
  4. The Customs will have to ensure that the livestock products are granted clearance for home consumption only after necessary permission is granted by the concerned quarantine or veterinary authorities. It may be noted that the Government has recently issued a notification on 30.5.2001 prohibiting import of all poultry products from Hongkong (China), Honduras, Italy, Laos and Pakistan for a period of six months from the date of issue of this notification in view of reported outbreak of Avian Influenza (Fowl Plague) in these countries. The products prohibited for import are domestic and wild birds, day-old chicks, turkeys, poultry and other newly hatched avian species, hatching eggs, semen of domestic and wild birds, fresh meat of domestic and wild birds, products of animal origin (from birds) destined for use in animal feeding or for industrial use, pathological material and biological products (from birds) which have not been processed to ensure the destruction of Avian Influenza (Fowl Plague) virus. The question of allowing clearance of these products for home use, therefore, does not arise.

Plant/Plant Materials for Sowing/Planting/Propagation/Consumption:

  1. The above products are allowed to be imported only on the basis of an Import Permit issued by the Department of Agriculture & Co-operation. The Import Permit is issued after conducting a detailed import risk analysis. This Permit is generally issued for a period of six months and can be extended by the concerned authorities for a further period of six months. The Department of Agriculture & Co-operation has issued detailed guidelines for inspection and clearance of plant/plant materials. The basic features of the guidelines are given below:-
    1. Registration of application: The importer or his authorised Custom House Agent is required to file an application at the Plant Quarantine Station in respect of each consignment immediately upon arrival at the port. In case of perishable consignments, such application can be filed in advance to enable the Plant Quarantine authorities to organize inspection/testing on priority. Alongwith application for registration, copies of documents namely, import permit, phyto-sanitary certificate issued at the country of origin, copy of bill of entry, invoice, packing list and fumigation certificate, etc. are required to be submitted. After scrutinising the application, the Plant Quarantine Officer registers the application. The assessed inspection fee is required to be paid by the importer or his authorised agent.
      In the case of import of plant and plant materials through passenger baggage and post parcels, no such application is required to be filed.
    2.  Sampling/inspection/fumigation of consignments: The importer or his authorised Custom House Agent is required to arrange for inspection/sampling of the consignment. In the event of live insect infestation having been noticed, the importer or his authorised Custom House Agent shall arrange for fumigation of consignment by an approved pest control operator at his own cost under the supervision of the Plant Quarantine officer.
    3. Release/detention of consignments: A release order is issued to Customs, if a consignment on inspection is found to be free from pests. However, in case a consignment is found to be infested with live pests, the same is permitted clearance only after fumigation and re-inspection. The detention order is issued, if the consignment is imported in contravention of the PQ Regulations, for arranging deportation failing which the same shall be destroyed at the cost of importer under the supervision of the Plant Quarantine Officer, in presence of Customs Officers after giving due notice in advance i.e. for perishable plant material 24-48 hours and 7 days in other type of plant material.
  2. The Customs will have to ensure that plant/plant material (primary agricultural products) are granted clearance for home consumption only after necessary permission is granted by the concerned Plant and Quarantine Officer.

Reference:
Circular No.36/2001-Cus., dated 15.6.2001 (issued from F.No.450/21/98-Cus.IV); Circular No.43/2001-Cus., dated 6.8.2001 (issued from F.No.450/44/2001-Cus.IV); CBEC letter F.No.450/80/2000-Cus.IV dated 24.7.2000; DGFT Notification No.44(RE-2000)/1997-2002, dated 24.11.200; DGFT Policy Circular No.38(RE-2000)/1997-2002, dated 21.1.2001; DGFT Notification No.3(RE-2001)/1997-2002, dated 31.3.2001; Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying Notification dated 7.7.2001 (issued from F.No.109-6/2001-Trade); Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying Notification dated 30.5.2001 [issued from F.No.50-4/84-LDT (AQ)]; Department of Agriculture & Co-operation letter F.No.82-2/2001-P&D, dated 11/15.5.2001; Department of Agriculture & Co-operation Notification No.[GSR378(E)] dated 1.5.2001 and Press Note communicated vide letter F.No.8-26/2000-PP-I dated 9.5.2001.


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