Government of India
Ministry of Finance
Department of Revenue, New Delhi
Subject : Classification of Indian traditional convenience food mixes masalas and condiments – Chapter 9 and headings 21.03 or 21.08 – Regarding.
Board has received representations from Indian Food Industries “Association and other s seeking clarification as regards the classification of various Indian traditional convenience food mixes, masalas, spices and condiments such as puliyogare powder, vangibath mix, instant samber mix, vangibath powder, sambar powder, instantbisibe lebath, rasam powder, bisibelebath masala, mix spiced chutney powder, cury powder, pickle masala, garam masala etc.
2. From the reports received from the Commissionerates, it is observed that while in some places the products in question are being classified as either “spices” of Chapter 9 of CET or as “Mixed Condiments and mixed seasonings” of Heading 21.03 of CET, in others the same products are being classified under Heading 2108.90 as “edible preparations not elsewhere specified or included”. In the latter case, Chapter Notes 9(b) & 9(c) of Chapter 21 are being relied upon for classifying these products under the sub-beading 2108.90. Trade interests have, however, argued that these products are merely additives for different food items and not readily consumable products through the simple processes of cooking, frying, boiling or adding with water, oil or milk. Hence it is claimed that the products in question cannot be classified under sub-heading 2108.90 of CET.
3. The matter has been examined. Spices are specifically covered under Chapter 9 of Central Excise Tariff and mixed condiments and mixed seasonings under heading 21.03 of Central Excise Tariff. Heading 21.08 of CET on the other hand is a residuary entry which refers to “edible preparations not a elsewhere specified or included”. While there are no definitions available for spices and mixed condiments and mixed seasonings in the Central Excise Tariff, the Explanatory Notes to the HSN give the following description of these products.
Spices i.e. a group of vegetable products (including seeds etc.), rich in essential oils and aromatic principles and which because of their characteristic taste are mainly used as condiments. Spices (including mixed spices) containing added substances of other Chapters, but themselves having flavouring or seasoning properties, remain in this Chapter provided the added quantity does not affect the essential character of the mixture as a spice, (Vol. I Page 61)
Condiments / Seasonings
Mixed condiments and mixed seasonings containing spices differ from spices and mixed spices of headings 09.04 to 09.10 in that they also contain one or more flavouring or seasoning substances of Chapters other than Chapter-9, in such proportions that the mixture has no longer the essential character of a spice within the meaning or Chapter-9 (Val. I Page 158).
3.2 While the Explanatory Notes in HSN distinguish between spices on the one hand and mixed condiments and mixed seasonings on the other, the English Dictionary meanings and statutory bodies dealing in quality specifications of spices, condiments and seasonings often use these words interchangeably. What is however emphasised in the literature on the subject is that the essential character of these substances is in their function, viz., to add flavour, aroma and pungency to various food preparations.
3.3 Chapter Notes 9(b) and 9(c) of Chapter 21 CET no doubt give an indication of the type of preparations which are intended to be included in Heading 21.08 of CET. However, it must be remembered that Heading 21.08 is a residuary entry in Chapter 21 and the Rules for the interpretation of the Schedule require that the heading which provides most specific description shall be preferred to headings providing a more general description. Further, Heading 21 in HSN excludes spices of Chapter-9.
4. Consequently, products which are predominantly mixtures of spices / condiments/ seasonings and which are used as such or in the making of food preparations mainly for their aromatic, flavouring or seasoning properties would merit classification under the specific entry of spices in Chapter 9 or Heading 21.03 of CET. However, products which in addition to spices, flavouring and seasoning substances also contain, other foodstuffs in such quantity that the products as such or after processing are capable of being used as food preparations for human consumption in their own right will go out of Chapter 9 or Heading 21.03 of CET and merit classification in the residuary heading 21.08 provided they are not covered or included in any other heading of CET.
4.2 Viewed in the context, products like sambar powder, rasam powder, puliyogare mix or powder, vanghibhath mix or powder consisting or mainly spices and required to be added to cooked dal or cooked rice mainly for spicing flavouring or seasoning would appear to merit classification as spices or mixed condiments and seasonings. On the other hand, products like instant samber mix, instant rasam mix, instant spiced bhath mix (bisibelebath) or instantkharabhath mix consisting of dal or rice flakes or sooji along with spices and other substances and which can be made up into food preparations by simply mixing and boiling / cooking in water would merit classification as miscellaneous edible preparations of heading 2108 of Central Excise Tariff.
5. In view of the above, board desires that classification of each product be decided on merit having regard to discussions herein above.
Under Secretary (CX.1)