June 30, 2020

China Demanding “COVID-Free” Guarantees on Food Imports

There have been very recent reports that food exporters are being asked by China to guarantee that their products are not contaminated with the novel coronavirus. This has since been confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) office.

Thus far, the request is for some type of ‘Letter of Undertaking of Safety of Import Food’, stipulating that the manufacturer/shipper/consignee commits to a) complying with Chinese laws, regulations and standards, and b) in the event of COVID-19 detection, taking on all necessary measures and responsibility to eliminate safety risks. To date, we are aware of such requests being made to exporters of almonds, pistachios, nectarines, and apples. China’s requirement is being applied across multiple commodity groups (program crops, livestock, poultry) and multiple countries (European Union, Australia, Canada, Brazil).

In response, USDA and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) released a joint statement reaffirming that there is no scientific evidence people can contract COVID-19 from food or from food packaging. In addition to USDA, FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this conclusion is shared by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Read Western Growers President and CEO Dave Puglia’s statement here. Western Growers remains in contact with USDA and USTR, both of which are currently working to resolve the issue with their Chinese counterparts.

If your business is involved in exporting and is currently being asked by Chinese officials or buyers to sign such affirmations or other COVID-related paperwork, we urge you to contact us.


On Wednesday July 1, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) is set to enter into force. For the fresh produce sector, the agreement does not make many substantial tariff or procedural changes from NAFTA. Nevertheless, it is encouraged for all exporters and their buyers to review and educate themselves on the terms under USMCA.

In order to claim the preferential tariff treatment for each country under USMCA, an imported good must originate and be exported from a USMCA country. A set of data elements referred to as a ‘certification origin’ must be provided by the exporter, producer or importer of the goods by adding the information to any document (e.g. commercial invoice) accompanying the shipment, or if preferred, by providing it on a separate document.

The Certification of Origin will not follow a prescribed format. However, the following minimum data elements must be included an any and all formats you employ:

1. Importer, Exporter, or Producer Certification of Origin
2. Certifier
3. Exporter (if different from the certifier)
4. Producer (if different from the certifier or exporter)
5. Importer
6. Description and HS Tariff Classification (6-digit level) for the Good
7. Origin Criterion for the Goods, set out in Article 4.2: Originating Goods
8. Blanket Period (if applicable)
9. Authorized Signature and Date

It is important to note that if your product undergoes some type of notable processing – dehydrating, roasting, canning, juicing – it may fall under a different tariff code. Additionally, if you are importing a non-USMCA good for the purposes of re-exporting to a USMCA nation, different origin criterion may apply.

Additional Resources:
Customs & Border Protection (CBP) Overview and FAQ
USTR USCMA Rules of Origin
Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) Overview

Please contact Dennis Nuxoll ([email protected]) or Tracey Chow ([email protected]). if you have additional questions.