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The Complete Guide to Importing Green Coffee Beans Into the U.S.

The Complete Guide to Importing Green Coffee Beans to the U.S.
Green coffee beans are a blank canvas for coffee roasters. In order to import these essential items, there are a number of regulations that need to be complied with.
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USA Customs Clearance
July 1, 2021
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For a wide variety of reasons, many businesses frequently import green coffee beans to the U.S. Unlike roasted coffee beans, green coffee beans provide some unique benefits to both consumers and distributors. If you’re looking to import green coffee beans to the U.S. there are some important steps you need to be aware of. 

To import green coffee beans to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements need to be complied with. FDA requirements include importing from a foreign supplier that is registered with the FDA and filing prior notice before the shipment arrives. Standard Customs and Border Protection (CBP) import rules must also be adhered to. 

In the guide below, we go in depth on all of the specific requirements you’ll need to abide by to safely import green coffee beans into the U.S.

FDA Requirements For Importing Green Coffee Beans

FDA Requirements For Importin Green Coffee Beans

If you intend to import green coffee beans into the US, you’ll need to follow all of the FDA requirements. The FDA is quite explicit about what it needs from importers and failure to abide by all of the rules can lead to some harsh consequences.

Filing Prior Notice

If you intend to import any kind of food intended for humans or animals into the U.S., you’ll need to file Prior Notice with the FDA.  

Performing this administrative task tells the FDA more about your intentions and the kind of business you run. 

There are two ways that Prior Notice can be filed.

  1. Through the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Automated Broker Interface (ABI) of the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE). This service allows you to meet CBP and Trade Automated Requirements (CATAIR). ACE documents processed through the ABI provide a way for filers to initiate the process of passing information over to the FDA electronically. 
  2. Use The Prior Notice System Interface (PNSI). Some importers may not have to abide by full CATAIR requirements. In which case, those importing green coffee beans into the U.S. may be able to use PNSI. These notifications still need to carry Prior Notice for a variety of shipments including: 
  1. Filers or brokers who need to file with PNSI if the ACE interface is not available
  2. Carriers who do not need to make a full filing with the CBP
  3. International mail shipments

Ultimately, as the importer, the simplest way to handle this task is to work with a Licensed Customs Broker. These individuals handle all aspects of clearing shipments that are arriving in the U.S. including filing prior notice. Our team of Licensed Customs Brokers at USA Customs Clearance have a deep understanding of the FDA Customs Clearance process. We’re fully aware of the requirements and make the process simple and easy.

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting green coffee beans to the U.S. a simple process

Get the help you need from our licensed professionals

FDA Facility Registration

In addition to the Prior Notice requirement, you’ll also need to fulfill FDA facility registration requirements. Essentially, any imported food arriving in the U.S. must come from facilities that are registered with the FDA. This safeguard is in place to ensure that imported food, including green coffee beans, meets quality and safety standards in place through the FDA.

At the time of import, FDA & CBP agents will review the shipment details to determine whether the imported coffee beans came from an FDA registered facility. If the products did not come from a registered facility, the shipment can be detained or returned to the shipper. Potential monetary penalties and bans on future shipments can also come into play.

Labeling Requirements

The FDA also requires importers of pre-packaged consumer food products to follow specific guidelines related to nutrition and ingredient labeling. These labeling rules only come into play if the green coffee beans are packaged for consumers. This likely won’t be the case for most green coffee beans imports. The majority of green coffee beans that are imported are shipped in bulk, non-consumer packaging. After clearing customs, most beans are then roasted before they’re packaged for consumers. 

CBP Required Documents

The CBP requires several documents to clear imports. 

  • Commercial invoice. A commercial invoice provides the CBP with detailed information on the contents of the shipment and ensures that it goes to the right location and pays the correct tariff (if any). It should include information on the type of goods being shipped, basic shipping information, date of sale, terms of sale, and packaging types. 
  • Packing list. The CBP also requires a packing list, usually provided by the freight forwarder or shipper. Most logistics companies include this information alongside the commercial invoice. The purpose of the packing list is to confirm the contents of the cargo. It is not an invoice replacement. 
  • Bill of lading (BOL). A BOL is a document that ensures that importers get their goods, and exporters get paid. Companies use BOLs to ensure that they can get compensated for delays, losses, or damages from international shipping. 
  • Arrival notice. An arrival notice is an official document carriers receive once goods enter the U.S. The document helps to speed up transit through customs by providing authorities with relevant information about your shipment. 

If your shipment is arriving via the ocean, you’ll need to submit the Importer Security Filing (ISF). You’ll need to complete this at least 24 hours before your cargo is loaded onto a ship bound for the U.S. The CBP enforces this policy strictly as the minimum fine for failing to file the ISF is $5,000 for each violation.

You’ll need to include the following information on the form:

  • Buyer 
  • Seller
  • Consolidator
  • Supplier or manufacturer
  • Consignee number
  • FTZ identification number
  • Ship to party 
  • Original country of origin
  • Information relating to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the U.S. (HTSUS)

This information provides U.S. customs with the information it needs before the cargo can safely pass into the country. 

Importing Green Coffee Beans vs. Importing Roasted Coffee Beans

Importing Green Coffee Beans vs. Importing Roasted Coffee Beans

For the most part, the process of importing green coffee beans into the U.S. is the same as importing roasted coffee beans. However, green coffee beans are more likely to undergo additional inspection since they haven’t yet been roasted and are at a higher risk of foreign pest contamination. If a foreign pest is found, your coffee beans will likely need to be fumigated before they move to the next step of their journey.

Import Duty and Classification of Green Coffee Beans

In addition to the different inspection procedure in place for roasted vs. green coffee beans, classifying the coffee beans with the correct tariff classification is an important distinction to make. The amount of import duty you pay depends on the HTS classification of your imported coffee. Fees vary if: 

  • Coffee is roasted (compared to green)
  • Caffeinated or not caffeinated
  • Arabica versus other types of beans

While import duties for nearly all types of imported coffee are zero, you’ll still need to classify your import with the correct HTS code. The HTSUS will still determine the specific regulations that apply to your imported green coffee beans. For example, different regulations apply to arabica, decaffeinated, non-roasted coffee compared to arabica, caffeinated, roasted coffee. Customs agents use these HTS codes to determine what to inspect and look for upon arrival. Applying an incorrect product code will lead to delays and paperwork corrections which can also lead to additional costs.

A Licensed Customs Broker can assist importers in properly classifying the coffee beans to the satisfaction of customs agents. Our team has extensive knowledge of the HTSUS and can assist in ensuring your green coffee beans are classified with the correct product code. 

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting green coffee beans to the U.S. a simple process

Get the help you need from our licensed professionals

What About Organic Green Coffee Beans?

Organic coffee beans follow a similar process to that outlined above. However, CBP will expect to see additional evidence that they meet the requirements for “organic” labeling. 

The CBP follows the USDA’s organic regulations when determining whether foreign organic products meet U.S. certified organic requirements. Requirements include:

  • Production handling requirements
  • Land use requirements
  • Seed and planting stock practices
  • Crop rotation standards
  • Wild-crop harvesting standards
  • Livestock origin standards
  • Livestock feed standards
  • Pasture practices standards
  • Organic handling standards
  • Substances use standards (including allowable synthetic substances)

You may also face additional restrictions if CBP agents find foreign pests in your green coffee bean shipments, including chemical treatments and fumigation. 

Many coffee bean importers also import items related to coffee, including flavored syrups. To learn more, check out our article, importing flavored syrups.

Importing Coffee Beans From Guatemala

Importing Coffee Beans From Guatemala

Importing coffee beans from Guatemala is a popular practice. But why is this?

On the face of it, importing from Guatemala seems very similar to getting coffee beans from any other country. However, the Central American state offers U.S. importers some worthwhile advantages. 

  • Geographic proximity. Guatemala is relatively close to the U.S. compared to countries in South America, East Asia, and Africa. Its proximity means that coffee doesn’t need to travel as far, it shares the same time zone as the US, and there is less of a language barrier compared to other regions around the world. From a logistics standpoint, these benefits can be extremely valuable for importers. 
  • Superior taste. Guatemalan coffee has a complex taste profile that consumers love. Many growers farm beans thousands of feet above sea level in volcanic regions that combine heavy rainfall, steady temperatures, and consistent humidity. In some ways, the close geographic proximity also contributes to taste as the beans are more fresh when they arrive. 
  • Food compatibility. Guatemalan coffee beans work well with flavors U.S. consumers enjoy, particularly chocolate and peanut butter. 

Import Green Coffee Beans With USA Customs Clearance

If you decide to import green coffee beans into the U.S., it’s vital to partner with a reliable and experienced Licensed Customs Broker. Getting support from our team ensures that you meet all the requirements of the FDA, USDA, and CBP. We simplify the import process for you, ensuring that your goods move through customs quickly and without any unnecessary delays. 

When you’re ready to discuss your green coffee bean import further, our import consulting service is the perfect solution. During our consultations, you get direct 1-on-1 support from our Licensed Customs Brokers. We outline the entire process of what’s required to import green coffee beans and answer any questions that you have. Sign up for your consultation today and get the help you need to import green coffee beans into the U.S.

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting green coffee beans to the U.S. a simple process

Get the help you need from our licensed professionals
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