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Exporting into the Middle East

Posted on 22 Mar 2016

Exporting into the Middle East

Stephen Hannigan, Corporate Development Manager at Warrant Group has lived and worked in the Middle East. Here he gives some insight and advice into exporting to the region.

The Middle East is a culturally and socially diverse region with a lot to offer UK exporters. Its customs processes are fairly complex compared with other parts of the world but with effective supply chain expertise and local knowledge, exciting opportunities are there for the taking. Here are some things to bear in mind.

Has the importer got the necessary authority to import?

Don't fall at the first hurdle, make sure that your importer is registered!

You'd be surprised how often this is not the case, especially among new-to-the-market importers offering great deals!

Do the imported goods need to be registered with a ministry, health department/municipality before release?

Different countries and regions have many local requirements and without the necessary approvals, imported goods will not be released from customs. Be aware that the documentation process in the Middle East is still largely paper based; documents are inspected and rubber-stamped manually rather than being processed electronically.

Best time to export?

The Middle East weekend is a Friday/Saturday so ensure freight arrives on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning to prevent excessive dwell time at customs. And, just like Chinese New Year where productivity in the world's factory slows, be aware of national celebrations including Ramadam, Eid and the Arabic New Year.

Are there any cross selling or brand limitations?

In some territories there will be an authorised importer for a brand, if you wish to import products for general sale or use in a project you may need to get a Non Objection Certificate (NOC) from the licence holder.

Is it necessary to label the goods in Arabic?

This is especially relevant for goods such as foodstuffs and cosmetics etc.

Where should I ship to?

Ideally export to the nearest port of arrival and let the importer handled the onward journey to limit your liabilities. Weigh up the pros and cons of exporting to a hub region, bearing in mind onward transportation costs and delays through multiple customs clearances.

Are there any rules saying it is necessary to use specific ports, airport or carriers?

Importers often have specific requirements for duty exemption in certain industries. For example importation of duty exempt goods for Abu Dhabi must only be done at Abu Dhabi International Airport or seaport - if you try and import at Dubai World Central Airports, you'll be liable for five per cent duty.

Are there any new or forthcoming legislation/regulatory changes to be aware of?

At the moment, there is no VAT in the Middle East but this could change with talk about a proposed VAT levy in the United Arab Emirates of anywhere between 3% and 5% but this still to be confirmed.

Additionally, extra duty levies are often imposed if the product being imported could be sourced locally - there is a lot of industry in the Middle East, from textiles to engineering.

And finally, what about the weather?

Never underestimate the obvious! I can clearly remember a container full of foodstuff left on the quay during the summer; the smell was horrendous. It all depends on the product but with temperatures soaring to 45 degrees Celsius and above, goods left in a metal container can quickly deteriorate. Consider the need for a refrigerated container, known as a reefer.

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