Importing Olives

Shipments of over 100 lbs. (drained weight) of imported olives are subject to Section 8e requirements.  All canned ripe olives are required to be inspected and certified prior to importation. Bulk olives for processing into canned ripe olives must be inspected and certified prior to canning. The cost of the inspection and certification is paid by the applicant. Inspection applications should be accompanied by, or there shall be submitted promptly thereafter, either, (1) an "On Board" bill of lading designating the lots to be entered as canned ripe olives, (2) a list of such lots by variety and their identifying marks, or (3) a list identifying lots by variety of imported bulk olives. View the full regulation.

Canned ripe olives shall meet the minimum quality requirements which apply to canned whole, pitted, sliced, segmented, halved, chopped and broken pitted olives. There are no applicable requirements for color and blemishes for canned green ripe olives imported.

Importing any canned ripe olives, or bulk olives for processing into canned, into the United States is prohibited unless they are inspected and meet the specific minimum size and quality requirements in the regulations.  The regulations address olives identified as:

Variety 1 (Aghizi Shami, Amellau Ascolano, Ascolano dura, Azapa, Balady, Carydolia, Cucco, Gigante di Cerignola, Gordale, Grosane, Jahlut, Polymorpha, Prunara, Ropades, Sevillano, Tafahi, and Touffahi). 

Variety 2 (Manzanillo, Mission, Nevadillo, Obliza and Redding Picholine). 

View the specific requirements for the varieties in the olive import regulations.

  • Canned ripe olives means olives in hermetically sealed containers and heat sterilized under pressure, of the two distinct types "ripe" and "green-ripe".
  • "Ripe" olives are those that have been treated and oxidized in processing to produce a typical dark brown to black color.
  • "Green-ripe" olives are those that have not been oxidized in processing, which range in color from yellow-green or other greenish casts and may be mottled.
  • Spanish-style green olives are packed in brine and are fermented and cured. They are otherwise known as "green olives".  These olives are exempt from the regulations.
  • "Limited use" means the use of processed olives in the production of packaged olives of the halved, segmented (wedged), sliced, or chopped styles.

Imported bulk olives, when used in production of canned ripe olives, must be inspected and certified as prescribed. Imported bulk olives that do not meet the applicable minimum size requirements specified above may be imported for limited use.

Specific Exemptions

Grade and size requirements do not apply to shipments of under 100 lbs. (drained weight) of canned ripe olives or bulk olives. Olives are also exempted from these requirements if used for charity or for processing into oil, but are still subject to safeguard provisions. The Importer's Exempt Commodity Form (SC-6) is used for olives destined for consumption in exempt outlets such as charitable organizations or commercial processing into oil.

The SC-6 exemption form must now be filed through the Compliance and Enforcement Management System (CEMS). The MOLS system previously utilized by AMS has been transitioned to CEMS. Visit Section 8e Exemptions – SC-6 Certificate for further information on the new CEMS and SC-6 Certificates. Also, visit Filing a SC-6 Certificate in CEMS for directions for registering for CEMS and instructions on filing a SC-6 Certificate.


Olive importers should make arrangements for inspection and certification of canned ripe olives not less than 10 days prior to the time when the olives will be imported by contacting the nearest field office, or apply for inspection of processed bulk olives by contacting the nearest field office not less than 3 days prior to their use in the production of canned olives.