How to import olive oil

You are on a well-deserved Mediterranean holiday when you come across a delicious, mild olive oil that you think would be a huge success in the Netherlands. You want to import it, but how do you go about it? Find out what the rules are when importing olive oil.

Olive oil is mostly used as a foodstuff, and edible olive oil imports are subject to European food safety requirements. There is also specific legislation for olive oil, laying down requirements that different types of olive oil must meet. There are different procedures for importing olive oil, depending on whether you want to import it from an EU country such as Italy or a non-EU country like Morocco.

Olive oil as a foodstuff 

If you browse the shelves of your local supermarket or delicatessen, you will probably come across various types of olive oil, such as ‘virgin’ and ‘extra virgin’. Olive oil is also used as lamp oil, but this article is only about edible olive oil. 

Product requirements for foodstuffs 

Food safety requirements apply to any foodstuffs entering the EU market. The olive oil you import has to comply with the European food legislation. Traceability throughout the supply chain is an important part of this legislation: you need to know where your olive oil came from and to whom you supplied it. This way you can quickly withdraw unsafe products from the market if necessary. 

The article on Importing foodstuffs lists the general requirements for all foodstuffs, including rules on food hygiene, labelling, and the presence of harmful substances. 

Specific legislation for olive oil 

Olive oil is subject to specific European legislation, which deals with the packaging and labelling of olive oil, the typical characteristics of olive oil, and more. This legislation can be found on the European Commission's website. 

Organic olive oil 

If you import organic olive oil (in Dutch), additional rules apply. For example, you will need to have your business certified by Skal Biocontrole (in Dutch), an independent organisation that oversees the entire organic value chain in the Netherlands. Organic foodstuffs from non-EU countries must meet standards equivalent to those applicable to organic foodstuffs produced in the EU

Useful agencies and authorities 

The following agencies provide more information on product requirements and import regulations: 

  • The Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) helps exporters from developing countries export goods to the European market. The CBI also publishes useful market information for importers and provides information about the European product requirements for olive oil

  • Access2Markets from the European Commission provides information on import regulations for products imported from outside the EU. For guidance on how to use this tool, visit the website. 

Video: Want to know the rules when importing? Use Access2Markets

Importing goods from EU countries 

There is free movement of goods in the EU, which means that you do not have to pay import duties when importing olive oil from Italy, Spain, Greece, or any other EU member state. Your supplier in the other EU country will charge 0% VAT, if you pass on your VAT identification number. Calculate Dutch VAT (9%) on the purchase and report it in your VAT return, before deducting it as input tax in the same return. 

Standard steps of importing into the Netherlands

Importing a product from abroad involves more work than buying a domestic product. You can make a successful start to importing goods if you know enough about the importing process. This step-by-step plan will guide you.

Importing goods from non-EU countries 

When you import olive oil from a non-EU country such as Tunisia or Morocco, you have to file an import declaration with Dutch Customs. Make proper arrangements about how their goods will be shipped and how you will pay for them. Willeke and Saskia Borman of Fuego B.V., an importer of AED devices and first-aid materials, explain how they import goods from non-EU countries

Import duties 

If you import olive oil from a non-EU country, you have to pay import duties, which makes your product more expensive. Import duty rates are linked to the ten-digit commodity code or TARIC code of the olive oil you are importing. 

The commodity code for ‘extra virgin olive oil’ in containers of less than five litres, for example, is 1509 2000 10, while the commodity code for ‘virgin olive oil’ in containers of less than five litres is 1509 3000 10. Both types of olive oil are subject to an import duty of €124.50 per 100 kg. For more commodity codes and import duty rates for olive oil, go to the Tariff Manual of Dutch Customs and open the Nomenclature tab. Find out how to look up commodity codes and import duties

Trade agreements and lower import duties 

If you import olive oil from countries with which the EU has a trade agreement, you will usually qualify for some form of import duty relief. The olive oil must be of preferential origin from the treaty country, which means that it was made from olives grown in that country. You can demonstrate this with a preferential certificate or declaration of origin. If you import olive oil of preferential origin from Morocco and Palestine, you will not have to pay any import duty. 

Preferential tariff quota 

For imports of various types of olive oil from Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Türkiye, you only qualify for import duty relief under a so-called preferential tariff quota. The EU sets a maximum quantity of olive oil that you can import with import duty relief in any given period of time, provided you have a preferential certificate or declaration of origin from your supplier. If you have reached the maximum quantity linked to the tariff quota or do not have a preferential certificate or declaration of origin, you will have to pay the normal import duty rate. 

In the Tariff Manual, under the 'Tariff Quota' tab, you can see whether there is still space within a tariff quota or whether the quota has already been exhausted. If you cannot figure it out yourself, call the Customs Information Line

If your olive oil is subject to the preferential tariff quota for Tunisia, you will also need an AGRIM import certificate from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). Inquire with the RVO whether the tariff quota has already been exhausted first and ask about the conditions for applying for an import certificate.