Guide to exporting food to Australia

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Are you a Singaporean business owner hoping to expand your market and export your delicious local food products to Australia? Shipping food to Australia can be a daunting process, especially with the strict import regulations and packaging requirements. But fear not. In this article, we'll explore everything you need to know about shipping food from Singapore to Australia. So grab a snack (or two), and let's dive in.


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Why export food to Australia? 

One of the main reasons to export food to Australia is to take advantage of the growing demand for international cuisine in Australia, particularly Asian cuisine. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Thai cuisine topped the list of most popular foods according to data from Google Trends. This is followed by Chinese food, followed by Italian, Japanese, and Indian. This goes to show there’s clearly a market for high-quality, authentic international food products. Businesses can tap into this market and offer a broader range of products to Australian consumers with a growing appetite for food from different cultures. 

Another reason to ship food to Australia is to provide access to unique and hard-to-find products. From 1996 to 2020, China and India were amongst the top three countries from where migrants of Australia originated, as documented by Scanlon Foundation Research Institute. Shipping food to Australia can be a way for individuals to enjoy the tastes of their home country or favourite cuisine, even when living far away.

However, importing food products to Australia can be tricky due to the country's strict regulations and biosecurity border controls. But with proper planning, careful packaging, and the help of a reliable shipping company like DHL Express, shipping food from Singapore to Australia can be a smooth and successful process.

How can you start importing food into Australia?

1. Determine which food products are restricted or prohibited

When it comes to shipping food from Singapore to Australia, it's important to be aware of the restricted and prohibited foods to avoid any potential issues or delays. The Australian Border Force has strict rules and standards in place to protect its citizens from potential biosecurity risks.

The Biosecurity Import Condition system (BICON) is an online resource provided by the Australian government that outlines the import conditions for different types of products, including food. It contains regulations for more than 20,000 plants, animals, minerals, and biological products and provides information on the requirements for packaging, labelling, and certification, as well as any restrictions or prohibitions on certain products, for example:

  • Meat products can only be imported from countries that meet Australia's animal health standards. Uncanned meat, such as preserved ham, salami and bacon, is prohibited. 

  • If you’re shipping in tea that contains citrus, fruit rind, peel, or bark, an import permit is necessary in order to be allowed entry into Australia. 

  • Rice, pulses, wheat, powdered herbs, spices and grains, and dried chilli are considered to have a very high biosecurity risk and are prohibited from being imported to Australia. 

  • Kopi Luwak or Civet coffee can be imported if the beans are roasted and only up to a total amount of one kilogram. The coffee must be declared and inspected upon arrival.

Before shipping any food products to Australia, it's important to consult BICON to ensure that you comply with all of the necessary regulations and requirements.

In the event that goods are identified as a biosecurity risk, they will be subject to assessment by the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) through a waybill or invoice assessment, which will incur a minimum charge of AU$30 (per assessment). A physical inspection may also be required depending on the commodity and level of risk, and also costs the same. 

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) also has the authority to issue fines and penalties to individuals who breach regulations.

2. Identify the correct customs duties and taxes amount

If you're a Singapore business looking to export food products to Australia, it's essential to be aware of these import taxes and factor them into your pricing strategy. To determine the import taxes applicable to your product, you will need to identify the Harmonized System (HS) code. The HS code is an internationally recognised system of numbers and names used to classify products traded around the world. Each HS code corresponds to a specific rate of import tax, which varies depending on the country of origin and the type of product being imported.

To promote trade between Australia and Singapore, the Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) entered into force in 2003. Under SAFTA, Singaporean businesses exporting to Australia can benefit from reduced or eliminated import tariffs on eligible products. It's therefore essential to do your research on import taxes for Singapore businesses and understand the import tax regulations for your specific product.

3. Prepare a list of essential shipping documents 

Shipping documents are essential for the customs clearance process and for ensuring that your food products are imported and delivered smoothly and efficiently. It's important to ensure that you have all the necessary documents for export clearance in order when shipping from Singapore to Australia. These include: 

  • Commercial invoice: This document provides a detailed description of the goods being shipped, including the quantity, value, and any applicable taxes or fees. It is used for customs clearance and provides a record of the transaction between the exporter and importer. For example, when shipping tea to Australia, it is necessary to provide in your commercial invoice a complete list of ingredients, including the botanical names of the species. 

  • Packing list: This document provides a detailed inventory of the goods being shipped, including the weight, dimensions, and packaging materials used. It is essential to ensure that the products are packed and transported correctly and can also be used for customs clearance.

  • Certificate of Origin (COO): This document provides information about the country of origin of the goods being shipped and may be required for customs clearance.

  • Phytosanitary certificate: This is a document that verifies that the goods being shipped are free from pests and diseases and comply with the import requirements of the destination country. For example, some types of coffee, such as green coffee, require this certificate. 

Other important documents include the bill of lading and air waybill. If package labelling and documentation do not meet these standards, it could mean delays because of non-compliance customs issues. Goods may require relabeling, export, or disposal.

4. Ensure food is properly packed 

It's important to use suitable packaging materials that will protect the food from damage and prevent spoilage during transit. To ensure that your food products arrive in Australia in good condition, consider these tips: 

  • Use high-quality packaging materials: Choose packaging materials that are strong, durable, and can withstand the rigours of shipping. Consider using insulated packaging for perishable items to keep them fresh during transit.

  • Consider temperature control: When shipping perishable goods or temperature-sensitive goods, it is crucial to maintain the product's quality and freshness by using temperature-controlled shipping containers or refrigerated trucks. This is especially important when transporting frozen food products, as their frozen state must be maintained throughout the entire journey. Various methods, such as gel packs, liquid nitrogen technology, or dry ice, can be used to achieve this.

  • Label all packages: Clearly label each package with the contents, weight, and any necessary warnings or instructions. This information should also be included on the commercial invoice and packing list.

  • Include nutrition information: Commercial quantities of foodstuffs of more than one kilogram or one litre of food per consignment require strict nutrition labelling in accordance with Australian food standards. Ensure that your food products are labelled with accurate nutrition information to comply with these requirements.

Strict compliance with customs laws and regulations is crucial when it comes to shipping food products. Any delays in the customs clearance process can lead to spoilage and reduced shelf life, ultimately resulting in lower product quality. Therefore, it is important to take all necessary precautions and follow all applicable customs procedures to ensure that your food products are delivered on time and in good condition.

4. Choose a reliable shipping company like DHL Express 

By understanding the import regulations, packaging tips, and necessary shipping documents, you can ensure a successful and hassle-free shipping process.

When shipping food products to Australia, it's essential to choose a reliable shipping company with experience in shipping perishables. DHL Express Singapore is a great option for those looking to ship food to Australia, as we offer specialised cold chain logistics services for shipping perishable and temperature-sensitive goods. We also have extensive knowledge of the customs and regulations in both Singapore and Australia, ensuring that your food products arrive safely and on time.

Open a DHL Express business account now to start shipping.