Spicing up EU-Indonesia food trade relations – The EU adopts emergency measures for Indonesian nutmeg

Today we have a most welcome return on our blog: Francesco Montanari, food lawyer in Lisbon and senior associate at Arcadia International, examining the EU emergency measures imposed on Indonesian nutmeg import.

Early this January, the European Union (EU) has decided to step up the conditions for importing Indonesian nutmeg into its market. Nutmeg is a high-value dried spice that derives from trees of the genus Myristica, plants that typically grow in a few Asian countries. Nutmeg has been widely used in European cuisine since the Middle Age for various purposes. According to some sources, its value increased exponentially during the 16h century, when belief had it that it could help preventing the plague. Currently, nutmeg sourced from Indonesia accounts for nearly 80% of all EU imports of that product, with Netherlands, Germany and Italy being the three top importers.

Indonesian nutmeg has been already under EU surveillance for some time mainly because of aflatoxins contamination. Indeed, it has been subject to reinforced checks at EU borders in the context of Regulation (EC) No 669/2009 since July 2012. A relatively high number of notifications (20) reported by EU Member States’ control authorities through the Rapid Alert System for Feed and Food (RASFF) over the period 2009-2012, in addition to some shortcomings emerging from an audit performed by the Food and Veterinary Office of the European Commission had justified an increase in border surveillance back then.

Over three years later, non-compliance levels reported in relation to Indonesian nutmeg do not seem to have substantially improved. A quick search in the RASFF database, in fact, shows that the number of RASFF notifications concerning this product have not decreased over the last three years, accounting for 23 border rejections.

It is against this background that the European Commission has recently decided to stiffen the import requirements applying to nutmeg with Indonesian origin.

The Commission has done so by adopting Regulation (EU) No 2016/24 whose provisions amend and supplement, among others, Annex I to Regulation (EU) No 884/2014, an EU emergency measure setting special import conditions for a number of imports presenting a high risk of aflatoxin contamination.

Applicable as of 2 February 2016, the new import requirements applicable to nutmeg from Indonesia imply that, in addition to the obligation of pre-notify the arrival of their consignments, the concerned business operators will have to provide the control authorities at EU borders also with:

  • a valid health certificate verified, signed and stamped by an authorised representative of the Indonesian Ministry of Agriculture for food, attesting that the consignment in question has been subject to sampling and analysis in conformity with EU legislation; and
  • an analytical report detailing the results of the tests performed in the country of origin in compliance with the maximum levels set by Regulation (EC) No 1181/2006.

At their arrival in the EU, consignments will still be subject to 100% documentary checks by national control authorities and to a lower frequency (20%) in case of identity and physical checks. Business operators sourcing nutmeg from Indonesia should be aware that, under the import regime set by Regulation (EU) No 884/2014, identity and physical checks may be not always performed at EU borders, but, based on the choice made by each Member State, be carried out at designated premises located either at an external borders or in-land.

Whilst the introduction of stricter import requirements for Indonesian nutmeg may be justified in the light of the overall unsatisfactory compliance level observed over time, the impact that the newly introduced measures will have on the bilateral trade relations between the EU and the Asian country remains to be seen.

In fact, over the last few years, the EU has been particularly active in voicing its concerns over the compatibility of certain sanitary and phytosanitary requirements set by Indonesia with the applicable international trade rules (e.g. BSE, avian flu and import requirements for plants and plant products), although with limited success. This considered, the import conditions that the EU recently adopted for Indonesian nutmeg risk being an additional political irritant in the context of the already tense trade talks between Brussels and Jakarta.

Entry-Exit Alerts for Chinese Food Market (Part 2) – Bird’s nests update

Today I publish the second part of the article published on 16th December 2015 (Entry-Exit Alerts for Chinese Market) by Quinn Hulk, Food and Drug Administration of Beijing – Food Law Advisor and our country contributor for China.

You can contact Quinn Hulk directly via e-mail at hulkquinn@163.com.

Without prejudice to Food Safety Law of People’s Republic of China, Law of the People’s Republic of China on Import and Export Commodity Inspection and its Enforcement Regulation, Provisions on the Registration and Administration of Foreign Manufacturing Enterprises Exporting Food to China, the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (hereinafter referred to as AQSIQ) has announced the latest catalogue of products needed to be registered for foreign food manufacturers (No. 138 Notification of AQSIQ, 2015).

Compared with the old version (No. 62 Notification of AQSIQ, 2013), the authority has put bird nest products in the catalogue. Nothing else has changed. The registration rules for foreign manufacturers of bird nest is entered into force on 1st January, 2016. Here is the newly added content in the latest version.

No. Name Definition Remarks
04 Bird nest products Edible bird nest and bird nest produce which are formed from salivary secretion of Aerodramus fuciphogus, Aerodramus maximus etc, with dirt and feathers removed. Edible bird nest Bird nest products such as whole nest, bar-shaped nest, cake-shaped nest and fragmentary nest after sorting, immersion in water, cleansing, removal of feathers, reshaping, drying processing, split packing etc. This excludes bird nest produce such as bird nest in crystal sugar.
Bird nest produce Such as canned bird nest in crystal sugar, bottled bird nest in crystal sugar etc.

Considering the fact that the majority of bird nest products come from Southeast Asia (mainly Indonesia and Malaysia), food manufacturers in these countries should get ready for the change. According to the article 3 of Provisions on the Registration and Administration of Foreign Manufacturing Enterprises Exporting Food to China, the competent authority for the registration of foreign manufacturing enterprises which export food to China is Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People’s Republic of China.

Although the current bird nest market is a niche market, great opportunities could still be grasped to expand businesses in China with the government putting so much emphasis on the development of Internet and the country entering into an aging society. The people are also getting more and more food-conscious and are yearning for a prolonged life of high quality.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party has lifted the food safety concern of the nation to an unprecedented priority and a national strategy in the year of 2013. It’s foreseeable that a growing number of stricter regulations and rules will come into force, which might have a huge impact on the food importers and exporters both domestically and overseas. It also means the food market will become less crowded yet more competitive and be shared with those who are wise enough to see the changes and strong enough to embrace them.