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Trade: EU: adopts new detailed custom codes for tomato products

27/12/2023 - Sophie Colvine , François-Xavier Branthôme - Lire en français
Thanks to work carried out by TomatoEurope, the European Union has adopted an updated customs nomenclature for processed tomato products effective on 1st January 2024 which will enable a better understanding of the trade.

The subdivision of the customs codes related to tomato products were outdated by the reality of the evolution of the market and international trade, which was making it very difficult to get a real picture of exchanges. 
One of the issues was the absence of specific codes for peeled tomatoes in containers over 1 kg for HORECA and for second-stage processing (including diced tomatoes in bulk) which were not differentiated with small formats for retail. For this reason, it was considered necessary to define two specific customs codes, similar to what has already been defined for tomato paste (codes 20029031/20029039 and 20029091/20029099)
Another issue concerned tomato paste (concentrate) as the demand for tomato paste with dry matter less than 20%, for particular uses in the second-stage processing has grown significantly in small, but above all, large formats. A single code for tomato paste with a range of dry matter from 12 to 30% today not only did not correctly capture the evolution of the trade, but also made it very difficult to define a single conversion factor that did not create a very strong distortion in the assessment of needs of fresh tomatoes. New parameters of 12%, 20% and 34% were proposed.
Furthermore, it was necessary to adjust the reference percentage to the fact that the limits are expressed in total dry matter, while commercially the tomato products are treated on the basis of the soluble dry substance (brix), which can be determined more quickly and easily. The difference between soluble dry matter and total dry matter is between 5/10%, in favor of total dry matter.
Following the proposals and strong justifications made the European tomato processors represented by TomatoEurope on these bases, the European Commission has adopted an updated customs nomenclature for processed tomato products, published officially in the Official Journal of the European Union on 31 October 2023 in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2023/2364.
The new custom codes will apply from 1st January 2024 for Common Customs Tariff, the external trade statistics of the Union, and other Union policies concerning the importation or exportation of goods.
Comparison of the previous EU customs codes, in force until December 31, 2023, and the new detailed nomenclature

Some complementary data: Harmonized System codes
Internationally traded goods are classified using a system of six-digit commodity codes, also known as “Harmonized System” (HS) codes (in bold in the above table). This system of coding is administered by the World Customs Organization and these codes constitute a worldwide standard, adhered to by most countries. 
HS codes are not only used for trade statistics but also for other important uses (customs tariffs and requirements, rules of origin, trade negotiations and agreements, taxes, etc.
Countries are free to add further numbers to the HS code to provide further levels of differentiation for their own purposes. Most countries add two or four extra numbers to the HS code (the EU and UK use 8 digits, the USA uses 10 digits, China uses 13 digits. Thus each country has its own set of codes with different criteria (mainly concentration and package size) and with different level of detail which are not always easy to interpret for those not familiar with them.
The HS is reviewed every 5 years by WTO, and the implementing period is two years and a half due to the legal complexity of making changes which affect national legislations globally and the consultative nature of the process, and involves an immense amount of work by Customs, international organizations, etc. 
A few years ago, WPTC looked into requesting a modification of the HS codes applicable for tomato products to better reflect current conditions, but decided not to pursue the matter for the time being due to the complexity of the endeavour.

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