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Robert.Jervis_43227 Jan 17

Importing from China - everything you need to know

Barrington Freight
Analysis from Barrington Freight
As one of the world's economic superpowers, it is virtually impossible for British businesses to ignore the importance of China. Not only is the north of the country one of the greatest suppliers of raw materials to the rest of the world, but the high-tech south is geared up for all sorts of manufacturing businesses, too. Indeed, the People's Republic of China has long since ceased to be an economy that was primarily based on agriculture and peasant farming. It is now fair to refer to it as the manufacturing centre of the world, just as parts of the UK used to be called in the nineteenth century.

What this means for British firms – even those which operate in the manufacturing sector themselves – is that understanding how to import from China is of huge strategic significance. Whether you need to import finished goods, raw materials or components, doing so from China will often mean being able to procure them more cheaply than from other parts of the world. Primarily, this is down to the vast economies of scale that Chinese suppliers can offer.

Indeed, despite the distance between China and the UK, importing from the Far East is also practical and affordable thanks to the tried-and-tested trading routes that have been established for many years. So, what do you need to know about importing from China and taking advantage of the cost benefits involved?

Multiple importation methods

Most British firms that import from China do so with sea freight since this is the most cost-effective method for most Chinese suppliers to despatch goods. With an ocean-going container vessel delivering your order, you could expect a lead time of about six weeks with this method. It is not your only option, however. Air freight from China takes around a week and is suited to higher value items. Courier services are even quicker and have the advantage of being trackable, too.

Handling UK customs

Businesses cannot just start using Chinese suppliers in place of those that are in the UK or the EU. You'll need an EORI number to import from overseas economies and then declare your imports in the proper way to HMRC with the right commodity codes. According to Barrington Freight, a British freight forwarding firm which helps with this sort of paperwork, there is no disadvantage in using Chinese suppliers as opposed to European ones any more. This is because such declarations are required for imports from Italy and Germany, for instance, since the UK left the common market just as much as they are for imports from China. Getting the paperwork right is important, though, since errors can cause delays and unwanted expense to sort out.

Dealing with small orders

Something that puts SMEs and even some larger firms off importing from China is the idea that it is uneconomical for smaller orders. However, you can easily share shipping containers with other UK-based importers which effectively means paying for only a proportion of the shipment. Chinese ports and exporters are geared up for this already, using a system of less than container load (LCL) shipping to handle smaller freight when importers don't require a fully laden container for their order.

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