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Import Declaration Requirement for Plant Products May be Narrowed

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is accepting comments through 7 September on two regulatory proceedings that could narrow the Lacey Act declaration requirement for imported plant materials. As amended in 2008, the Lacey Act makes it unlawful to import certain plants, including plant products, without an import declaration that contains the scientific name of the plant, value of the importation, quantity of the plant, and name of the country from which the plant was harvested.

APHIS is proposing to establish an exception to this requirement for imported products containing plant material that represents no more than five percent of the total weight of the individual product unit provided that the total weight of the plant material (i) in an entry of such products (at the entry line level) does not exceed 2.9 kilogrammes or (ii) in an individual product unit does not exceed some to-be-determined amount of plant material by weight or board feet. If the weight of the plant material cannot be determined, the exception would apply to products containing plant material that represents no more than 10 percent of the declared value of the individual product unit provided that the total quantity of the plant material in (i) an entry of such products (at the entry line level) has a volume of less than one board-foot or (ii) an individual product unit does not exceed some to-be-determined amount of plant material by weight or board feet.

The proposed rule also seeks to address confusion about the time frame in which declarations should be submitted by allowing importers to file within three business days of importation without facing any enforcement action or penalty for late filing. APHIS notes that while some importers are submitting declarations up to a year after importation, more than 90 percent of current declarations are already submitted at the time of arrival.

APHIS is also considering establishing a separate exception for composite plant products that are not otherwise considered de minimis quantities under the proposed rule. APHIS notes that many composite plant materials are currently manufactured in a manner that makes identification of the genus, species and country of harvest of all of the plant content difficult and perhaps expensive. While provisions in the Lacey Act’s declaration requirement address how to complete a declaration in situations in which the species or country of harvest varies, APHIS states that these provisions may not relieve the difficulties and expense faced by importers of some composite plant materials. APHIS has therefore issued an advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on a number of related issues.

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