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The Complete Guide to Importing Olive Oil into the U.S.

October 9, 2020
Harriet Daniels
Get help importing olive oil into the U.S. Our Licensed Customs Brokers can handle the entire process for you to ensure it's safely imported.
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The key ingredient to many great recipes on the menu depends on importing olive oil into the U.S. for use in a variety of ways. From cooking, to use as the base of a dipping sauce or even as a salad dressing. Regardless of the blend, whether it is extra virgin to pure virgin, the labor-intensive process to create olive oil is not taken lightly. Chefs and would-be-chefs count on their favorite olive oil making the journey to the United States for pickup at the supermarket or online order delivery. However, there are many hurdles to clear in order to import olive oil.

The list of rules and regulations for importing food also apply to olive oil. The FDA and CBP are the main government agencies overseeing the import process for olive oil. Navigating all the documentation required for this process takes attention to detail. Our professional team of custom brokers can advise you and find the perfect solutions to ship olive oil to the U.S. from around the globe. However, there is a lot to grasp when importing olive oil and it is our goal to be an excellent resource through the process.

If you don’t have time to read the full article or need immediate assistance, our team is ready to help you now. Consult with our Licensed Customs Brokers today to get definitive answers to all of your importing questions. We’ll provide a step-by-step guide of exactly what needs to be done to successfully import shipments of olive oil. 

Work with a specialist to make importing  and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process. Get the details you need with our import consulting services.

Rules and Requirements

Olive oil falls into several categories depending on the end use. When considered as food or an edible oil or being used in cooking the shipment must be in compliance with the rules of the FDA. The facility where the oil is produced can also obtain registration with the FDA or Food & Drug Administration and provide prior notice when shipments are in transit to the U.S.

Shipments of olive oil are required to have:

In preparing to import goods, shippers must also clear CBP since olive oil is a by-product of an agricultural crop. Shippers need to understand exactly what is required to certify the shipment upon arrival. Information like the country of origin must be documented to determine next steps. By working closely with a customs broker, shippers will avoid fines and penalties that can ultimately accumulate into thousands of dollars lost to the bottom line.

Imported food must meet the same standards as that which is grown or manufactured here in the U.S. As an edible oil, olive oil must be in compliance based on nation of origin. In addition, shippers are required to obtain a customs bond to cover the shipment. Since olive oil falls into a regulated category, any shipment valued at over $2,500 is required to have a customs bond to cover the shipment.

The FDA is looking to ensure:

  • Safety
  • Sanitation
  • Labeling

If any of the requirements are overlooked throughout the process, the shipment could be significantly delayed for delivery or returned altogether. We don’t want this to occur for any shipment, especially when it comes to the rich and various blends of olive oil needed to complete a variety of tasty treats.

Importing FDA regulated products can be quite the challenge. To learn more about the process, check out our article on FDA Customs Clearance.

Import Duty On Olive Oil

Import Duty on Olive Oil

One of the things shippers will need to understand upfront in the importing process is all the taxes and fees associated with a shipment of goods. Let’s start with the import duty and what it means. In essence, an import duty is a tax levied on any import and collected when the shipment arrives in port. The main question shippers typically ask is how much is the import duty? In response, the amount of the import duty is determined by the value of the shipment.

Import duty on olive oil may also be set by the blends that include:

  • Virgin
  • Certified Organic
  • Extra Virgin

If a batch of olive oil is chemically altered from its original form, pressed oil from the olive, it will be classified differently and import duty assessed accordingly. In addition to an import duty, the tax may also be labeled as either a customs duty, a tariff or an import tax.

The United States ranks as the top nation for importing olive oil. The lion’s share of this popular oil comes mainly from European countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea that includes Spain and Italy in the top two spots respectfully followed by Portugal and then Greece. Each country has unique regulations, set and enforced by CBP, that must be adhered to allow shipments of olive oil to enter the country and collect import duty. This is the agency that will inspect and certify that the shipment is as described and meets the guidelines of other agencies.

Need help figuring out what the import duties are for your olive oil import? During your consulting session, our Licensed Customs Brokers will help you properly classify your olive oil in order to identify the correct import duty.

Work with a specialist to make importing  and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process. Get the details you need with our import consulting services.

Importing Olive Oil from Spain

Importing Olive Oil From Spain

Spain currently ranks as the world’s top producer of olive oil. Spain’s location in the southern sector of the European Union, is a part of the Mediterranean region and the country grows many varieties of olives producing various grades of olive oil. In recent years, Spain has outperformed others in the region in the amount of olive oil imported to the U.S from Spain with a value totaling in excess of $36 million.

Although Spain is a growing and valuable market, importing olive oil from Spain must still adhere to the rules and regulations by the FDA and CBP for each shipment. Spain is one of many countries in which the U.S. imposes a tariff on goods coming into the country. As stated earlier, a tariff is also known as an import duty charged on goods being shipped from a foreign country.

The value of an olive oil shipment will determine the import duty or tariff to be charged which is generally a set percentage of the total. It is the responsibility of the shipper to have a good understanding of the requirements to ensure everything is in order.

Prior notification of goods is one of the first things that must be documented in order to import food into the U.S. Under the FSMA or Food Safety Modernization Act of the FDA, there must be a system of checks and balance in place to ensure imported goods meet the U.S. safety guidelines. Adhering to these regulations helps guard against contamination and other hazards upon consumption or use.

Each country of origin, to include Spain, typically has a number of other regulations that must also be checked off before the shipment is cleared for export. Attention to detail is always required when importing goods to avoid any mistakes that can ultimately delay a shipment of olive oil.

Importing Olive Oil from Italy

The southern region of Italy, often referred to as the Boot, produces the world’s second largest volume of olive oil. The blends of olive oil from Italy are highly regarded as premium quality and popular exports to the U.S. Many of the Italian olive oils are found in more gourmet dishes and sold at specialty shops or other retail locations.

Italy is responsible for approximately a third of the olive oil imports to the U.S. And like Spain and other countries of the EU, additional tariffs will be assessed based on the value.

Although a high producer of olive oil, importers can participate in the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program or VQIP through the FDA to ensure expedited inspection to clear customs. While the program is voluntary and fee-based, if shippers meet eligibility, they are then able to get imported goods through the process promptly without issue.

In working to import olive oil from Italy, a licensed customs broker can help shippers navigate this detailed system of bringing goods into the country from a foreign country. When Italy is listed as the country of origin on a shipment of olive oil, the goods are subject to an additional tariff applied by the U.S. for goods coming from the European Union.

In addition to olive oil, Italy is known for many other popular food products. If you’re planning to import other food from Italy, check out our blog Importing food to the U.S.

Importing for Personal Use

Do you get excited to hear the term EVOO? Yes, that’s the EVOO that stands for extra-virgin olive oil. And as popular chefs promote the use of EVOO to prepare certain dishes especially Mediterranean or Italian cuisine, there are a host of other types of olive oil that also hold shelf space in the kitchen of those cooking at home. The history of pressing oil from olives dates back many centuries to showcase use for consumption and to derive other health benefits. Some blends offer different benefits depending on how it will be used. So when it comes to importing for personal use, it does not mean regulations are relaxed for shipping olive oil. In fact, the importer will need to make sure to understand what is required by the FDA for this food product.

The types of commercial grade olive oil include:

  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • Virgin Olive Oil
  • Refined Olive Oil
  • Pure Olive Oil
  • Olive Pomace Oil

In addition to using olive oil for cooking, many import other blends of the oil for a variety of topical or organic applications for skin care in beauty regimes. These products can include shampoo and conditioners, dry skin formulas to anti-aging products. However, these products for personal use have additional ingredients included which alters the oil from the original pressed form. In this case, the products will fall into another category to assess import duty.

Olive oil is also used in religious settings to anoint believers at baptism and bless the sick. In some traditional religious practices, olive oil is still used to light lamps and to consecrate other instruments in ceremonial observances and daily life. Olive oil is vital with these and groups and so regular import shipments are necessary and they must adhere to the regulations from original sources in the Mediterranean region of Europe.

While our company doesn't provide customs clearance services for personal shipments, we can consult with you and give you all the information you need to successfully import oil for personal use.

Work with a specialist to make importing  and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process. Get the details you need with our import consulting services.

Shipping Olive Oil to the U.S.

Shipping Olive Oil to the U.S.

The vast amount of olive oil shipping to the U.S. is imported from Spain, Italy along with Portugal and Greece just to name a few. The FDA along with the CBP works hard to make sure the olive oil that is imported and distributed throughout the United States is safe and compliant of all regulations. While olive oil from the European Union is regulated by the IOC or International Olive Council, the U.S. does not recognize that system which sets guidelines on classification of types.

In contrast, the North American Olive Oil Association or NAOOA is a trade group to test and certify a blend produced here. However, it does not have the reach and power of the IOC which sets standards and rules for importing and exporting to other countries except for the U.S.

Olive oil coming into the U.S. is bound by the FDA to meet safety standards as any other food or drug intended for use by consumers. The goal of the FDA with imported goods is to certify that the facilities producing goods like olive oil are operated free of contamination and the goods are truly as listed and categorized on documents.

In addition, the CBP ensures all fees and import duties are assigned correctly and collected upon entry. The overall progress has a lot involved, but can vary based on country of origin, the value of the shipment and other factors like the blend or if any chemicals are added.

Whether the shipment of commercial olive oil is intended for use in a gourmet restaurant or included in a new delicious recipe to be served at home, olive oil is a U.S. staple when it comes to cooking and is growing in popularity for other uses. However, without proper documentation required to enter the U.S., olive oil shipments are stuck in either the country of origin or flagged by customs at the port of entry.

Biggest Challenges

While everyone strives to have a smooth importing process from start to finish, there are bound to be issues that arise which need to be resolved. Here are a few of the top challenges to overcome when importing olive oil into U.S. for use:

Variation of blends

Depending on which country the olive oil originates, there could be a difference in the import duty that is assessed on each shipment. Do you know exactly what is being shipped? Just listing olive oil does not do the trick. The FDA and CBP will need importers to make sure the documentation reflects all required details for the customs bond to properly cover the shipment.

Shelf stable

Any time food is being imported, attention must be given to ensure the product has not reached its expiration date. Some blends of olive oil can be shelf stable for just shy of two years while others my last four or five years. It’s best to understand the variations to adjust shipping services accordingly.

Stay up to date on changes

The world of importing can change quickly and often. Countries can impose or eliminate tariffs overnight. Additional regulations can be put in place. So what may have applied on a prior shipment could currently be different on a shipment. It’s best to stay abreast of any changes from the country of origin or destination dealing with imported goods. It can make a drastic difference.

Handling these types of potential challenges and more are exactly what our team is qualified to do for shippers importing olive oil into the U.S.

Work with a specialist to make importing  and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process. Get the details you need with our import consulting services.

Get Help Importing Olive Oil into the U.S.

The hurdles of importing olive oil in the U.S. can test the resolve of an importer if going it alone. We look to partner with shippers to provide the best advice and guidance to successfully transport bottles of olive oil from around the globe. By working with our Licensed Customs Brokers, importers are able to avoid making costly mistakes.

The benefits of working with a Licensed Customs Broker includes:

  • Explaining the rules and regulations of the importing process as it relates to the country of origin. This is an important step and is extremely valuable for those unaware of the details.
  • Our customs broker is acting on behalf of the importer. So shippers are not alone, but have a knowledgeable partner to lead the way.
  • No worries when it comes to documentation. Customs brokers will make sure everything is in place, then double check verifications so there are no surprises or delays.
  • Brokers are able to coordinate the full itinerary of services needed to import a shipment of olive oil whether it be from Spain, Italy or other locations.

Our team makes importing goods to the U.S. a seamless process. In addition to our complete range of customs brokerage services we bring to the table, our sister company R+L Global Logistics can be utilized to keep the supply chain for olive oil moving with ease and precision.

Supply chain services include:

  • International & Domestic Transportation
  • Warehousing
  • Order Fulfillment
  • ISF Filing
  • Duty Drawback
  • White Glove Service

And the list of services continues. Schedule an import consulting session with one of our Licensed Customs Brokers to get the support and answers you need. 

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Work with a specialist to make importing  and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process. Get the details you need with our import consulting services.
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