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Processing Changes Classification of Sunflower Seeds, Court Says

Friday, April 13, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has upheld a Court of International Trade ruling that wet-cooked and/or roasted, salted, flavored, and/or unflavored 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 CAFC states that the common meaning of “sunflower seeds” as used in heading 1206 is “edible, oil-rich seeds of a sunflower” and that there is no reasonable dispute that this broad definition covers the seeds at issue. The CIT determined otherwise by relying on the narrower interpretation provided by the Explanatory Notes to Chapter 12, which the CAFC said ran afoul of its instruction that courts not employ any limiting characteristics of the ENs to narrow the language of the classification heading itself. However, the court adds, the seeds are also classifiable under heading 2008 because they are fit to be eaten and made ready for consumption through processing, flavoring, and packaging.

Utilizing GRI 3(a), the CAFC determines that heading 2008 is more specific than heading 1206 because its requirement for the seeds to be prepared or preserved, which involves some degree of processing or addition of ingredients, renders it more difficult to satisfy.

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