Importing food products presents diverse and exciting new business opportunities that open up entirely new markets or make existing ones more competitive.
In order to import successfully, food businesses need to develop a solid understanding of the relevant legal requirements and any overseas regulations. We have extensive experience of dealing with import agreements and have created a list of top tips for food companies looking to trade internationally.
- It is important to note that most food and drink products imported from within the EU have no restrictions. However, it is still worth checking before entering any negotiations with an exporter.
- Food businesses will need to ensure that any imported products meet the UK’s requirements for safety, packaging and labelling. Most regulations cover food and drink that is imported from outside the EU and in most cases, food business will require health certificates as well as import licences.
- Companies should examine whether they are likely to be affected by any domestic regulations in the country where they are sourcing produce. For example there could be local export taxes and a range of requirements to meet in order for the supplier to get an export licence.
- The contract negotiations between suppliers and buyers need to cover payment and delivery terms, including the payment method. Remember there are charges for converting currency and exchange rates are in a constant state of flux. There will be significant costs associated with transport and delivery of goods.
- Food businesses who do not import on a regular basis may find it easier to use an import agent to handle customs clearance. This is advised in situations where the exporter is not willing to take responsibility for this.
- Remember that import duties and VAT may be payable on products - the rates depend on the product and its country of origin.
- Animals and animal products from countries outside the EU must be imported via an approved Border Inspection Posts (BIPs) where they undergo veterinary checks before they are allowed to enter the EU. Animal products and live animals generally can only be imported from countries which are on the approved third country import list for that product or animal species.
If a food business is unsure of anything, it should approach a specialist. Import agents, trade associations and lawyers such as Roythornes are all good sources of guidance and support should it be required.