Those in the business of getting cigars into the United States were met with a bit of a surprise on Monday as the usual process of claiming shipments now involved a filing with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), whose regulation of the premium cigar industry also began yesterday.
Several importers and the manufacturers they represent appeared to be caught off guard by the new requirement, which required that the person claiming the shipment provide the name of the factory that produced the cigars, as well as a contact name, physical address of the factory, phone number and e-mail for the factory. Until that information was provided, shipments weren’t being released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which led to some in the industry fearing that their cigars were being held hostage.
However, FDA’s filing requirement isn’t part of a new attack on the cigar industry, but rather part of the process that all products regulated by FDA must go through when coming into the country. It seems that the specifics of the new requirement weren’t adequately communicated to–or researched by–some in the cigar industry, leaving several brokers and brand owners unprepared to submit the necessary information when they went to claim their shipments of cigars, and in some cases scrambling to understand the new regulation and provide the required information.
Fred Gomez of ACapital Intentional CHB & Forwarder told halfwheel that customs brokers will now be required to submit an FDA entry at the same time that the customs entry is submitted to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. While some reports of a fee for this new filing began to circulate on Monday, Gomez noted that it comes from the import agent or broker as part of their service and not from FDA.
Representatives from both FDA and CBP have not yet commented on the matter.