Last edited 10 Sep 2014

5 Essential Tips for the Import / Export Trade

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The import / export business is lucrative, to say the least. It’s also riddled with potential pitfalls and hang-ups. If you’re just starting out, have a look at these five essential tips before you get too far in:

1. Don’t try to be a hero

In other words, don’t even dream about going it alone. The import / export business is complicated, to say the least, and you’re most certainly going to need help along the way. The international import / export trade is extremely complicated, and there are logistics firms out there that specialise strictly in the means and modes of getting products from one part of the planet to the next in a timely, efficient and affordable manner. In this case, trying to go it alone is akin to attempting to file a complicated tax return by yourself when you could as easily hire an accountant for a modest charge. In short: a reputable logistics company will most certainly simplify the process and save your valuable time.

2. Know the restrictions

This applies to everyone when just getting started, because even new-to-the-game importers are likely to be surprised by a few of the prohibited items barred from import into their home countries. However, for exporters, it’s an ongoing consideration – especially if you ship to a variety of countries. Restrictions, or course, depend heavily on the country. That said, they usually pertain to the following types of items:

• Foods

• Plants

• Produce

• Pharmaceuticals

• Motor vehicles

That’s a broad list – and it’s by no means comprehensive. However, if you’re importing or exporting any of the above, there are almost certainly some restrictions that you need to know about.

3. Consider the need to quarantine

This is an area in which the regulations can vary widely depending on the country, which is why we have separated it out from the general ‘restrictions’ category. Quarantine restrictions are particularly important when you are shipping goods to an island. With that in mind, you’ll need to give plenty of attention to quarantine regulations if you’re attempting export to Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Hawaii – even Ireland and the UK. Of course, countless smaller island nations impose their own quarantine regulations as well.

The operative consideration here has to do with the possibility of introducing a pathogen, pest or chemical that is not already found at the export destination. Living organisms (pets, produce, plants, etc.) are especially likely to be quarantined. The current epidemic status of the country doing the exporting also has to be taken into account. Here’s a succinct breakdown of how and why quarantine regulations operate.

4. Use a Customs Broker

Customs brokers are an importer’s / exporter’s best friend. They know all of the regulations and loopholes and have a knack for clearing items through customs checkpoints that you never could’ve cleared on your own. A good custom’s broker operates in the digital world, which means they don’t need to be on the ground at the location you are shipping to.

5. Get samples before you ship

As an exporter, it’s easy to sip into this trap. You have a buyer. You know a supplier. So why not just play the quiet matchmaker and help these two parties out? If you turn a tidy profit in the process – well then all the better. This approach sounds good in theory; however, you’re likely to end up with an inferior product that ultimately alienates you from what would have been a repeat customer. Request samples early to get an idea of what the manufacturer can do. That way, when the actual shipment is ready, you’ll know how to gauge the product that you’re sending on to your client.

In conclusion, the import / export business can be lucrative; but you need to know the pitfalls before you get too far in. Do your research and network with people in the know, and you’ll be fine.