Supply chain · 10 March 2016

Eight surprising customs rules for micro businesses

surprising customs rules
Eating edible insects is currently in fashion – but the import of such insects is not yet allowed throughout the Eurozone due to variations in food safety rules

As a micro business owner, finding your way around the exporting market can seem like a challenge, particularly with so many regulations and rules to adhere to. But luckily assistance is close at hand.

We’ve brought together a few of the strangest and most surprising scenarios and regulations that exist within the shipping market to demonstrate just how diverse – and sometimes peculiar – some countries’ customs regulations are.

We appreciate it can be tricky to get to grips with each individual export rule, so you will need to plan on a country-by-country basis. Still, do not let these examples put you off exporting – as long as you’ve done your research with the help of a trusted source, you’ll be heading for overseas success.

Here are some of the most surprising customs rules we’ve come across:

(1) Eating edible insects is currently in fashion – but the import of such insects is not yet allowed throughout the Eurozone due to variations in food safety rules. Things are fast changing though. In 2014, Belgium approved ten insects for human consumption, which are now available to purchase in both supermarkets and restaurants.

(2) Amateur sports in France are becoming increasingly regulated, especially in comparison to other EU member states. For instance, France is no longer permitting the import of creatine – a supplement which helps increase muscle mass. This is something brands in the sector need to be aware of if exporting to this market.

(3) With the UK the sixth largest wine drinking nation in the world, you could be forgiven for believing that it’s straightforward to import wine from other European countries to Great Britain. However, that is not the case. When exporting alcohol from an EU country to a private recipient in the UK, there are strict rules to adhere to. The vendor has to pay an excise duty to UK authorities. The UK doesn’t permit the consumer to pay this duty, and will confiscate goods where the specific procedures have not been followed.

(4) There is no use crying over spilt milk, however if you are a mother and baby retailer, exporting milk to China isn’t child’s play. While it is possible to ship baby formula to private individuals in China, the maximum quantity permitted is six cans (with each containing a maximum of 900g) for personal use. Additionally, in order to do this, the sender must be registered as an official exporter with the Chinese authorities. Other parties, like the manufacturer, also have to be registered and need to obtain approval from the Chinese government. It’s also important to note that approval by the China Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) is mandatory for all dairy products entering the Chinese market.

(5) Rules and regulations are constantly in flux, so even if you have exported to a country before, do not assume the same rules will apply six months later. For example, honey from South Africa is now not allowed to be imported into EU member countries, despite previously being allowed.

(6) Not all merchandise is what it seems. For instance, one of our clients wanted to send rubber fingers from France to the USA. However, as they were planning to use them as part of poultry feather removal machinery, they were no longer classified as glove parts. The appropriate customs classification was now “machinery for the preparation of meat or poultry”.

(7) Here is another rule to mull over: Shipping chewing gum into Singapore is forbidden, although exceptions are made if it is intended for dental hygiene and medicinal purposes, but only under license.

(8) Do not become unstuck – or unzipped – if you’re planning to send zip fasteners to India. You will be required to declare the length, colour of the zips, and teeth material when exporting to the country.

These rules may seem a little unusual, and in some cases a bit extreme, but they demonstrate the crucial role of research and finding the right customs experts to avoid being taken by surprise.

Thinking about exporting? Read this guide first.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

David Poole is managing director of sales, UK South at FedEx Express and FedEx UK. FedEx Express is the world’s largest express transportation company, providing fast and reliable delivery to every US address, as well as more than 220 countries and territories. 

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