International Trade

8 quirky exporting rules you need to be aware of

5 min read

23 January 2015

Navigating the shipping market can be a daunting task for SMEs. Here are eight quirky rules about exporting to be aware of.

When exporting, you need to be aware of the variety of – sometimes unexpected – customs regulations for each country. 

This shouldn’t deter you from selling your products overseas though. As long as you’ve done your homework – and reading this article is part of it – you will be on your way to exporting success.

As customs procedures are in constant flux and each product has different rules associated with it, the European Commission’s market access database is a good starting point.

We appreciate that it can be tricky to get to grips with each and every export rule, so you’ll need to plan on a country-by-country basis, and source a trusted resource. Here are eight of the most unexpected regulations out there:

1. Edible insects are trending – but imports of such insects are not yet allowed in all EU countries due to variations in food safety rules. Belgium approved 10 insects for human consumption in 2014, and in November the first insect meat offers were available in supermarkets and restaurants. 

2. Amateur sports in France are becoming increasingly regulated compared to other European countries. France is no longer allowing the import of creatine, a product which helps with the building up of muscles. The French will have to train a bit harder and longer to get in the same shape as their Spanish neighbours.

3. Exporting wine can be tough. As the sixth biggest wine-consuming country in the world, you might be forgiven for thinking that it would be easy to export wine from other EU member states to the UK. But that’s not the case. When shipping alcohol from an EU member state to a private individual in the UK, there are strict rules that apply. The vendor must pay excise duty to the UK authorities. The UK does not allow the consumer to pay this duty, and insists on confiscating goods where the specified procedure has not been followed.

4. And milk too. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, but if you’re a mother-and-baby retailer, exporting milk to China is not child’s play. While you can ship baby formula to private persons in China, the quantity is limited to six cans (each can max 900 gram) for personal use. To do this, you must register as an exporter with the Chinese authorities. Other parties such as the manufacturer have to be registered and obtain approval from the Chinese government as well. In addition, approval by China Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA) is required for all other dairy products and is now mandatory for Chinese market access.

5. Rules and regulations change all of the time. So even if you’ve exported to a country once, do not assume the rules will remain the same six months later. For instance, did you know that you cannot import honey from South Africa into EU member countries?

6. Not all products are what they seem. For instance, one of our customers wanted to ship rubber fingers from France to the US. But as they were to be used as part of poultry feather removal machinery, they were not classified as glove parts. The correct customs classification was “machinery for the preparation of meat or poultry”.

7. Gum. Here’s another rule to chew over: shipping chewing gum into Singapore is prohibited, although exceptions are made for dental hygiene and medicinal purposes under license.

8. Zippers. Don’t become unstuck – or unzipped – if you’re looking to send zip fasteners to India. You’ll be required to state the length, teeth material and colour of the zips when exporting to the country.

These rules may seem a little unusual, but if you do your research and find the right customs experts, you are less likely to be taken by surprise.

Harald Schoenfelder is managing director Global Trade Services, FedEx Express Europe, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent & Africa.