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U.S. Customs proposes controversial tariff change for bilberry extract

  • U.S. Customs proposes controversial tariff change for bilberry extract

    by market Insider

    Thursday, 04 Feb. 2016

    Vaccinium myrtillus is a medicinal plant of European biodiversity, known as bilberry or European blueberry. The ripe fruits of bilberry are wild-collected by local people for household income in several countries including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Republic of Bulgaria, Republic of Croatia, Republic of Finland, Republic of Poland, Republic of Serbia, Romania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Ukraine, among other European origins.

    Standardized bilberry extracts rank among the highest-value medicinal herbal ingredients processed by most the major European extraction houses for the global market.

    In the EU, extract of fresh bilberry fruit is regulated as an active ingredient of traditional herbal medicinal products (THMPs) requiring registration and pre-marketing authorization. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approves the following therapeutic indications (a) ‘THMP to relieve symptoms of discomfort and heaviness of legs related to minor venous circulatory disturbances’; and (b) ‘THMP to relieve symptoms of cutaneous capillary fragility’.

    In the United States of America, the same extract of fresh bilberry is regulated however as a component of dietary supplement products, a subset of food and not medicine.

    Because there is no product-specific tariff code assigned for bilberry extract in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has, in the past, made rulings on various incoming shipments of bilberry extracts.

    Historically, the customs rulings have been correct and consistent in that most all articles of botanical origin in extract form are covered under HS 1302 [“Vegetable saps and extracts; pectic substances, pectinates and pectates; agar-agar and other mucilages and thickeners, whether or not modified, derived from vegetable products”].

    For example, in 1996, CPB ruled that a standardized dry extract of bilberry fruit manufactured in Italy should be classified under HS 1302.19.4040 [“Vegetable saps and extracts: Other: Other”].

    Then in 2012, CPB ruled that bilberry extract powder should be classified under HS 1302.19.9140 ["Vegetable saps and extracts: Other: Other: Other]. However, in December 2015, CPB proposed to revoke and/or modify past customs rulings for imported standardized bilberry fruit dry extract, now proposing to move it to HS 3824.90.9290 [“Prepared binders for foundry molds or cores; chemical products and preparations of the chemical or allied industries (including those consisting of mixtures of natural products), not elsewhere specified or included: Other: Other: Other”].

    In January 2016, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) submitted a well-reasoned 29-page argument to the U.S. CPB in opposition to their proposed revocation of bilberry extract in HS 1302 and switch to HS 3824; AHPA’s comments available at: http://www.ahpa.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Advocacy/16_0122_AHPA_Comments_Bilberry-Blueberry.pdf?ver=2016-01-25-114435-013

    The following quote is excerpted from the AHPA press release announcing their opposition to the U.S. Customs proposal:

    “AHPA views CBP’s proposal as directly problematic for importers and marketers of bilberry and blueberry extracts and as presenting potential economic burdens on companies that trade in other herbal extracts,” said AHPA President Michael McGuffin. “If this particular CBP proposal becomes the norm we could see inappropriate tariffs applied to many other ingredients derived from botanical sources.”

    Sources:
    1. American Herbal Products Association (AHPA). AHPA opposes U.S. Customs proposal to reclassify certain bilberry and blueberry extracts. 27 January 2016: http://www.ahpa.org/News/LatestNews/TabId/96/ArtMID/1179/ArticleID/613/AHPA-opposes-US-Customs-proposal-to-reclassify-certain-bilberry-and-blueberry-extracts.aspx
    2. American Herbal Products Association (AHPA). Comments of the American Herbal Products Association on the Proposed Revocation of Three Ruling Letters, Modification of Two Ruling Letters and Revocation of Treatment Relating to the Tariff Classification of Bilberry and Blueberry Extract Powder. 22 January 2016: http://www.ahpa.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Advocacy/16_0122_AHPA_Comments_Bilberry-Blueberry.pdf?ver=2016-01-25-114435-013
    3. Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC) European Medicines Agency (EMA). European Union herbal monographfon Vaccinium myrtillus L.,fructus recens. London, UK: EMA. 29 September 2015: http://www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_Herbal_monograph/2015/12/WC500198374.pdf
    4. Engels G. Herb Profile: Bilberry. HerbalGram. 2009; 81:1-2.
    5. European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines (EDQM). Fresh Bilberry Fruit Dry Extract, Refined and Standardised. In: European Pharmacopoeia (PhEur 8.6). Strasbourg, France: EDQM. 2015.
    6. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Proposed Revocation of Three Ruling Letters, Modification of Two Ruling Letters and Revocation of Treatment Relating to the Tariff Classification of Bilberry and Blueberry Extract Powders. CUSTOMS BULLETIN AND DECISIONS, VOL. 49, NO. 51, DECEMBER 23, 2015: https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/documents/Vol_49_No_51_Title.pdf

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