Common Shipping Concerns When Importing From Foreign Countries






There are a few things you’ll want to be aware of before you jump into importing goods from China to South Africa. While you can control most steps in the process and make sure everything is transparent and legal, there are things that might escape your grasp and cause trouble later.

Check all declared values, both in South African and Chinese forms


One thing you need to ensure is that the merchandise has left China legally and that its value has been properly declared. As such, different Chinese states will often have different regulations when it comes to exporting with some coming up stricter than others

What this means is that some providers might misreport the merchandise value in order to save money in export fees. While problems arising from this in China due to this will have to be handled by them, if South African authorities find out about this, it will be your responsibility to solve it.

Goods whose value has been misrepresented are often considered smuggled goods, and therefore they can go into government custody while the issue is cleared. This as is often the case with government processes, could take weeks or months. 

So instead of risking it, always make sure the import documents have the exact value you paid for the goods. Double-check, because while you should be able to trust your own declarations, those of your providers might not be that kosher.

Be wary of importing secondhand items

South African authorities are very strict with secondhand imports. They fall under special legislation which serves to keep said goods from making it into the country and getting resold as new. Therefore, you’ll need special permits to import these kinds of goods.

Since they’re used goods, they might also undergo further inspection, particularly if said goods are for commercial use. As such, you might have to pay extra during the import process, and it’s likely to take longer to pass these through the ports of entry.

You’ll also want to obtain the permit to import secondhand goods before you start the process, both to save time, and to make sure you can indeed receive your items in South Africa.

The real value of your merchandise matters

South African authorities are also strict regarding the price paid on goods imported for commercial purposes. It is important to watch out when importing toys from China to South Africa or even when importing tyres from China to South Africa. Since these are fast moving consumer goods, they are expected to attract strictly price/value checks.

Specifically, goods that are sold at rates much below what the market dictates will often raise a few flags in the process. This is both because said goods are often used for money laundering and because allowing such goods into the country could cause a market imbalance, leading to your products being much cheaper than those of other traders.

While it’s great to have a supplier that will give you special prices to allow you to earn more, paying pennies in place of dollars is an entirely different situation. In the cases where this happens and there’s no evidence of money laundering, goods will be considered “dumped” goods.

So, goods rated as dumped have to attract extra taxes and fees in an effort to bring their values up to par with their actual value. While this might seem unfair for one trader, these extra taxes ensure the stability of the market by keeping said goods from flooding the country and hurting local producers who can’t compete at that price level.

Subsidized items can be troublesome

Subsidized items are items that have a certain value, but are sold below value in certain countries, usually through government programs. 

They generally refer to food items or clothing that government programs sell at very low prices to allow poor people to buy, but there are no real limits on what can be considered subsidized. In some cases, governments will subsidize electronics or appliances to help their people lead better lives, for example.

Since subsidized goods are supposed to be cheaper only in their country of origin, extra taxes are applied to them. This is done both to keep the South African market fair and to ward-off importers who chase after subsidized items. After all, importing subsidized items implies taking away goods a foreign government got to help its population.

Declare sample products as such


Many suppliers are willing to send you test shipments declared as “sample products.” These products are merchandise made with the goal of letting the client know firsthand what the quality of the goods being sold is. As such, they are not for commercial use and their market value is quite low – in some cases, even null.

Declaring sample products as such is important because it allows you to make sure you’re only paying as much as necessary in custom duties and taxes. In most cases, sample products pay little or nothing because they can’t be sold or used. 

For example, sample shoes might come only for one foot, or have holes drilled into them to prevent them from being sold or worn. Samples of clothing might come in ultra-small sizes or they might include only as miniaturized items as opposed to finished clothing.

Regardless, declaring sample products for what they are is important, even when it might sound silly. Knowing that a shipment contains samples might explain why the said shipment is too cheap for its contents, for example. 

Always stating exactly what’s in the shipment will keep you from trouble, even in those situations where a wrong statement might actually work in the government’s favor.

As for importing prohibited goods, you simply can’t. They’re prohibited for a reason. To know whether the goods you need are prohibited or merely restricted, you can check the updated list.


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