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Processing Can Change Classification of Sunflower Seeds, Court Says

Friday, February 17, 2017
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Court of International Trade ruled Feb. 15 that roasted, salted, and/or flavored whole sunflower seeds in their shells are properly classified as seeds not elsewhere specified or included under HTSUS 2008.19.90 (17.9 percent duty). The plaintiff had argued for classification as sunflower seeds under HTSUS 1206.00.00 (duty-free).

The court explains that pursuant to the general explanatory note for HS Chapter 12, the tariff term “sunflower seeds” encompasses seeds of the common sunflower that are minimally further processed only to an extent that leaves the seeds suitable for general uses, including sowing and oil extraction. In this case, however, the seeds undergo heat treatment that adversely affects their harvest, viability, preservation, and storage and may adversely affect their use for oil extraction. This processing renders the seeds suitable only for a specific use (snacking) and therefore ineligible for classification in heading 1206. While the plaintiff argued that this heading lacks specific language excluding such processed seeds, the court said exclusionary language is not necessary to determine that a more restrictive definition is meant to apply in a particular tariff heading.

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