Import of Food Products in India: A Complete Procedure
The term “Import of Food Products in India” denotes the criteria prescribed by FSSAI, under which an Importer can Import Food Items in India from any Foreign Country.
Further, the ultimate authority regarding the Import of Food Products is with FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India). That means any good that is not as per the directions and guidelines passed by FSSAI, and then the consignment will be dismissed or not permitted to enter the territorial limits of India.
Moreover, it has been made compulsory for all the businesses or entrepreneurs engaged in importing food products in India to comply with the methodology, guidelines, directions, and controls identifying the imports of food products.
In this blog, we will discuss in detail the Import of Food Products in India.
Agencies Involved in the Import of Food Products in India
The agencies involved in the Import of Food Products in India are as follows:
- Food Safety and Standards Authority in India;
- Ministry of Agriculture, Department for Plant Quarantine Organization;
- Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying and Fisheries;
- Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Department of Consumer Affairs;
Licenses Required to Import of Food Products in India
The documents required to Import of Food Products in India are as follows:
It is always advised to either have an LLP or a Registered Company under which one can commence his/her own business. The reasons for the same are as follows:
- Improves the Transferability; and
- Limits Personal Liability;
The applicant who wants to import Food Products in India needs to mandatorily obtain GST Registration.
Import Export Code
The applicant needs to apply for Import Export Code if he/she wants to engage in the business of importing food products. Further, the same can be collected from the DGFT (Director General for Foreign Trade) office.
Only FSSAI has the authority to approve whether a particular product conforms the FSSAI guidelines or not, or is eligible for FSSAI License or not
Further, it shall be relevant to note that the authorities will not be giving approval for those products that do not comply with the guidelines set by FSSAI.
Other Required Licenses to Import of Food Products in India
The other licenses required to Import of Food Products in India are as follows:
It is issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India. Further, it is issued in case of Primary Agricultural Produce or Horticulture Produce.
Sanitary Import Permit
It is issued by the Department of Animal Husbandry, GOI (Government of India), in the case of Livestock Produce.
Registration of Import Products
It is issued by the Central Bureau of Narcotics  , Gwalior and is required in the case of Poppy Seeds.
Certificate of Origin
It is required to obtain “Certificate of Origin” if the consignor or seller belongs to another country.
Certificate of Analysis with Composition
This specific certificate is known as “Test Certificate” and is used in case of Wine and Whiskey.
In this form or declaration, the Food Importer needs to specify about the end use of the Imported Food Item.
Pumping Guarantee Certificate
This specific certificate is needed in the case of bulk import of edible oil.
List of Transit Country
This specific certificate is produced before the authorities if the shipment or consignment is coming through more than one country.
Bill of Lading
This specific certificate is needed for sea shipment and is considered as one of the most important documents for the Import of Food Products in India.
Air Way Bill
Any shipment or consignment that is coming by way of Air requires a Bill of Entry(BoE).
Requirements for a Registered Food Importer
The requirements for the Registered Food Importer are as follows:
- The business requires to be registered as either of the following:
- Sole Proprietorship;
- Partnership Firm;
- Private Limited Company;
- Public Limited Company.
- Import Export Code or IEC circulated by the Director General of Foreign Trade;
- Requires product approval, if the product to be imported comes under the category of a non-standardized product;
- FSSAI has an automated mechanism known as the “Food Imports Clearance System” (FICS). Further, an importer may register the needed compliances under FICS or for customs clearances; he may hire a “Custom Handling Agent” (CHA) for the same.
Food Products That Do Not Require FSSAI Approval
The food products that do not require FSSAI Approval are as follows:
- Export Food Products that are re-imported or rejected implies for re-trade;
- For the Assembling of the 100% Fare Products;
- Food Products that are imported for Diplomatic Missions;
- Import of Food Products for Quality Assurance, Research and Development;
- Food Products Imported for Test Showcasing or Statistical Surveying purposes;
- Edible Products Imported for the purpose of Presentations and Tasting. However, the same is subject to certain conditions;
- Food Products Imported during any Fiasco or Crisis Circumstances;
- Import of Food Items for Sports Occasions. However, the same is subject to specific conditions;
Different Stages for Clearance of Food Products
The different stages for the clearance of the consignment and meeting the domestic market are as follows:
- The Customs Department must clear the Application for the Customs Clearance;
- Clearance of the Application of No Objection Certificate (NOC) or Provisional NOC by FICS (Food Import Clearance System) of FSSAI;
- Scrutiny and Verification of Documents by the Authorized FSSAI Officer;
- Visual Inspection by the Authorized FSSAI Officer;
- Sampling of the Consignment by the Authorized FSSAI Officer;
- Laboratory Analysis of the Samples Collected;
- Issuance of the No Objection Certificate or Provisional NOC by FICS (Food Import Clearance System) of FSSAI;
- Lastly, the Customs Clearance of the Consignment;
Process to Import of Food Products in India
The steps involved in the process of Import of Food Products in India are as follows:
Before the arrival of the food consignment, either through sea or airport in India, the FBO (Food Business Operator) importing consignment needs to prepare an Authority Letter in favor of the CHA (Customs Handling Agent). Such an Authority Letter must be addressing FSSAI Authorised Officer.
Further, on the arrival of the consignment, the CHA mentioned on the “Authorization Letter” will file an application for the consignment clearance with the Department of Customs recognized on the BOE (Bill of Entry).
After this, a Government Customs Agent will cross-check and verify the consignment received and clear the same after the completion of formalities and payment of customs duty.
Apply For FSSAI Clearance
In the next step, the CHA will file an application in the FICS (Food Import Clearance System) of FSSAI for acquiring the ‘No Objection Certificate’.
The documents needed to be uploaded to the Official FSSAI portal for obtaining FSSAI Clearance are as follows:
The documents that are mandatorily required for obtaining FSSAI Clearance are as follows:
- Import Export Code issued by the DGFT (Director General of Foreign Trade);
- FSSAI License;
- Bill of Entry (BOE);
- Examination Order issued by the EDI system of Customs, wherein requiring NOC from the FSSAI;
The documents that are optional for obtaining FSSAI Clearance are as follows:
- In the case of Horticulture Produce or Primary Agriculture Produce, the Import permit granted by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Government of India;
- In the case of Livestock Products, the Sanitary Import permit granted by the Department of Animal Husbandry, GOI;
- Registration of the import contracts for “poppy seeds” with the Central Bureau of Narcotics, Gwalior;
- Certificate of Origin granted by the Authorised Person or Agency at the place of manufacturing, processing, etc., of the food consignment. Further, the Certificate of Origin will contain information regarding the Country of Origin etc. However, the same is required if the consignor belongs to a different country;
- In the case of Primary Agriculture or Horticulture Produce with Fumigation Endorsement, the Phyto-Sanitary Certificate granted by the Plant Quarantine Department of the Exporting Country;
- In the case of Wine and Whiskey, a Certificate of Analysis with composition;
- The imported needs to file an End-use Declaration to declare the last use of the imported food product;
- In the case of bulk import of Edible Oil, the Certificate of Pumping Guarantee;
- A complete list of the transit countries, in case the food consignment is trans-shipped through two or more countries;
- Temperature Report/ Graph/ or Chart, if the consignment is trans-shipped under CCT (Cold Chain Technologies) from the port of origin to the import point;
- Packing and Stuffing List;
- In the case of an aseptic package; a declaration is to be filed by the undertaking that the representative sealed sample belongs to the same batch of the consignment;
- Commercial Invoice as specified in the BOE (Bill of Entry);
- In the case of Sea Consignment, Bill of Lading as specified in the Bill of Entry;
- In the case of Air Consignment, Air Way Bill as specified in the Bill of Entry;
Inspection and Sampling of the Consignment
After the filing of the application in the FICS, together with the required documents, the authorised FSSAI Officer will verify and cross-check the submitted documents.
Further, if the application gets accepted, then the importer will be asked to submit the fees for the FSSAI Clearance depending on the number of samples.
Also, the designated FSSAI Officer will fix a time and date for the visual inspection of the consignment. The parameters that will be verified during the visual inspection are as follows:
- Physical state of the consignment for perceptible fungal or insects infestation;
- Remaining shelf life of the product must be more than 60% of the original shelf life;
- Specification mentioned on the label must be in compliance with the FSS (Packaging and Labeling) Regulations, 2011;
- Rectification of the Labeling Deficiencies;
- Name, Address and Basic Details of the Importer FBO;
- FSSAI Logo;
- FSSAI License Number;
- Symbol for Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian;
Approval for the Food Product
In the last step, if the authorised laboratory issues an “approved conclusion report” declaring that the food consignment is in compliance with the FSSAI Regulations, the inspector will issue an NOC (No Objection Certificate) or NCC (Non Conformance Certificate).
Further, after the issuance of the certificate, the food consignment will become eligible to be imported in India and will be discharged from the Traditional Distribution Centre as well.
In a nutshell, the term “Import of Food Products in India” denotes the criteria prescribed by FSSAI, under which an Importer can Import Food Items in India from any Foreign Country. Further, the ultimate authority regarding the Import of Food Products is with FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India).
However, there are some food products that do not require FSSAI Approval, such as Food Products that are imported for Diplomatic Missions.
In case of any other doubt and dilemma, reach out to Swarit Advisors.