Cuba is considered to be a developing country with a great trade potential. The country has adopted specific trade requirements for all kinds of imported or exported products. The National Standards Office (NSO) is the organization which sets regulations for the labeling, packaging of consumer goods, taxes and Customs regulations. In preparing for entry into the Cuban market, all the international traders should also be aware of the country’s documentation requirements.
- Household goods and all kinds of electrical appliances must comply with the standard NC COPANT IEC 60335-1. This sets forth general requirements for such electrical appliance with a rated voltage of not more than 250 volts for single-phase appliances and 480 volts for others.
- Medical equipment and medical drugs must obtain a registration from the Ministry of Public Health’s State Centre for the Control of Drugs, Equipment and Devices (CECMED). In addition to this, a vide range of products such as lamps and luminaries, lamp ballasts, personal protective equipment, motorcycle helmets, medical electrical equipment, and construction and safety glass must also comply with specific standards.
- The following list of products must obtain certification from the Cuban Ministry of Public Health’s Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety (INHA) before they are imported on the Cuban market: food additives, food-contact materials, and equipment and utensils for food use; toys; cosmetics, personal care products, household cleaning products, and environmental products and technologies; and tobacco products.
- Toys are subject to the requirements of NC ISO 8124-1 (safety aspects relating to mechanical and physical properties), NC ISO 8124-2 (flammability) and NC ISO 8124-3 (migration of certain elements). NC ISO 8124-2 specifies the categories of flammable materials that are prohibited in all toys as well as requirements concerning flammability of certain toys when subjected to a minor source of ignition. It also includes general requirements relating to all toys and specific requirements and test methods relating to toys presenting the greatest hazards.
The following documentation is required for goods imported into Cuba:
- a customs declaration;
- a shipping document (for example, an original bill of lading, or export certification);
- an original copy of the commercial invoice;
- an original copy of the packing list;
- a certificate of origin;
- sanitary/phytosanitary certificates, whenever applicable, and a fumigation certificate in the case of wood;
- any other certificate or document that may be required by Cuban authorities.
All documents must be translated into Spanish. The Cuban Customs provides flexibility in certain instances, including by temporarily accepting pro-forma invoices. Importers may also submit customs declarations in advance of the arrival of the goods and make temporary or incomplete declarations when all the information necessary for clearance is not readily available.
The following information is required by Cuban law on all prepackaged product labels:
1. Name of the product;
2. Country of origin;
3. Commercial brand name;
4. Name and address of the manufacturer;
5. Ingredients and additives;
6. Net content and drained weight;
7. Instructions for use;
8. Storage instructions;
9. Date of manufacture or lot number/code and expiration date.
In addition to the above mandatory labeling requirements, Cuban authorities may also refer to internationally accepted Codex Alimentarius (Codex) standards if discrepancies with foreign labels exist. Codex, also known as the "food code," is a set of scientifically-based and globally-recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines and recommendations for food products.
Cuban regulations do not specifically address labeling requirements for samples or institutional-packed products for the food service industry. However, in the case of institutional packed products, health authorities normally do not expect to see all the information required on labels of retail products. The boxes or cases in which institutional products are shipped must be labeled with the name or description of the product and with the product size. The products themselves should be individually labeled with the same information as well. However, given that the end use of institutional packed products cannot always be guaranteed, it is recommended that they be labeled the same as retail products when possible.
Cuba has no specific standards regarding irradiated food products. International standards on this subject are acceptable.
Despite some liberalizing moves in the last four years, the Cuban government maintains strict control on foreign trade. Customs entry must be handled by an authorized Customs Agent contracted and acting in the name of a Cuban state-controlled company legally allowed to import a given category of product. The entry process begins with submitting a customs merchandise declaration.
Shipments are inspected and cleared at three different levels. At the first level, merchandise goes through any one of three channels: green, orange or red. In the green channel, neither the documents nor the merchandise are inspected. In the orange channel, the documents are reviewed to determine if a physical inspection of the merchandise is required. In the red channel, clearance is granted only after the merchandise has been physically inspected.
In the second clearance level, the documentation is reviewed again to determine if any errors in classification, valuation, or duty assessment may exist. The third and final level of clearance involves post clearance inspections, which may take place up to five years after the merchandise is imported into the country. Customs may apply administrative sanctions to any importer or customs agents found to be negligent or to exercise malicious intent.
Customs clearance time may vary depending on the volume of cargo entering Cuba at any given time, and the number of documents required for specific merchandise. The entire process may take one to three weeks depending on the effectiveness of the Customs Broker.
The National Standards Office (NSO) in Cuba
Calle E No. 261 entre 11 y 13
Vedado 10400 La Habana
Tel: +53 7 830 00 22
Fax: +53 7 836 80 48