The next best thing to visiting an exciting foreign country like Spain is sampling their culinary delights from the comfort of your own home. The only downside is that imported goods found at specialty stores in the Unites States can sometimes come with hefty mark-ups.
That means if you want to experience the sensations of authentic Spanish tapas or wines, you’ll be doing so at a somewhat considerable financial expense.
You may be surprised to learn that importing small quantities of food directly from Spain to your door is often less expensive than buying that same product from your local fine foods store.
The only rub is that the import process can be involved and at times confusing. Using this quick guide, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the culinary confections of España.
Importing Food into the United States
It is understandable that the import process would involve elements of bureaucratic hoop-jumping, considering that at least two nations (both with their own best interests at heart) are involved. This leads to an array of registrations, licensing, regulatory fees, tariffs, and taxes, all with their own accompanying paperwork. Hence, there are a lot of small things that can hold up the entry of imported goods.
Ideally, the sequence of events will go as follows:
It is the responsibility of the importer of record to file entry documents with the port director at the port of entry in which the goods will be arriving into the United States. Assuming the shipment is cleared by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, and all taxes, tariffs, and duties are paid, the importer of record will be allowed to arrange for the release or delivery of the goods.
The import duty is a tax collected on most imports into the United States. The duty for a particular item is typically a percentage of the item’s value. Their main purpose is to economically enrich the importing country as well as promote the purchase of local goods by giving them a financial advantage in the market. Additionally, duty rates can be adjusted to admonish countries the U.S. government wants to punish. The higher the duties, the less financially attractive the exports of the country become. Despite efforts to simplify the process, determining the appropriate duties for a shipment can still be a confusing process.
The U.S. International Trade Commission provides a database of tariffs to help shippers approximate the duties they’ll be expected to pay. It’s important to note that the approximation is based primarily off of the information you provide about the shipment. If any of that information is inaccurate, it can throw off the estimate.
As you’ll come to discover, the value of the goods you wish to import plays a massive role in how difficult the process will be.
Case in point, most goods valued under $2,500 are eligible for “Informal Entry”.
Informal Entry allows for easier and quicker release of imported goods. Moreover, goods that receive Informal Entry typically do not have to pay custom bonds. Unfortunately, because food is under the purview of other government agencies (namely the Food and Drug Administration), you may still need to post a customs bond.
On the bright side, goods valued under $2,500 can be sent via the U.S. Postal Service, meaning you won’t have to arrange a trip to the point of entry for yourself or an agent acting on your behalf (something you would need to do for goods valued over $2,500). When mailing your goods you only need to pay a postal handling fee and any applicable duties, both of which can be taken care of at the local post office in the foreign country – here, Spain.
Prior Notice is another major part of the import process. The FDA, with the aid of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, requires a Prior Notice filing before food is imported into the United States. Prior Notice allows the FDA to zero in on import inspections more effectively, help maintain the nation's food supply standards, and guard against terrorist acts and other public health crises.
Additionally, and for similar reasons, things get more complicated when importing alcohol as well. It is of the utmost importance that all of the information provided for Prior Notice is accurate. Inconsistencies can lead to processing and inspection delays. These can be particularly disastrous with food shipments that are already time sensitive.
Importation is not a one-way street. It requires communication with the foreign supplier to make sure everyone is on the same page. This can get very tricky when dealing with time zones and language barriers.
Not only will PriorNotify help you iron out the details needed for each Prior Notice, but it also provides a communication hub that can easily be translated to the user’s native language. Moreover, you’ll receive real-time alerts and messages whenever anything changes.
This is only a brief overview of a complicated process with various moving parts. That said, it should give you a good idea of what to expect before embarking on this somewhat daunting endeavor.
Importing Food from Spain
If Eliza Doolittle is to be believed, the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain. It’s easy to believe when considering the fact that Spanish agribusiness counts for over 15% of the country’s total exports.
Clunky segue aside, Spanish trade has improved not only in the economically trade friendly European Union, but also in the United States. The United States is the leading non-EU importer of Spanish goods, and trade relations between Spain and the US are generally favorable.
Of Spain’s chief exports, fruits and nuts rank number seven. They account for three percent of the country’s total export revenue and bring in around $8.7 billion annually.
Spain is also one of the world’s biggest wine manufactures. According to world renowned sommelier Lucas Payá:
[O]ver the last 30 years or so, Spanish wines in the US have experienced an exceptional and steady growth in both sales and popularity.
Although Spain is especially known for its ham and other meat product exports, it’s important to note that the United States is extremely picky about from which countries it allows imported meat. For example, Spain is one of the few countries (33 to be exact) that are allowed to export beef to the US under strict guidelines.
Spain has successfully carved a comfortable niche in the export world with fresh, dependable produce, specialty olive oils, and one-of-a-kind wine selections.
If taking a trip to enjoy them in their natural habitat is not an option, you’d be doing yourself a favor to import your selections directly to your door. It will take some research and a bit of stick-to-itiveness, but it will give you the option to get exactly what you want and at a lower cost.
By the time you’ve read this, you’re already well on your way!