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Being religious about compliance can help fast-track your products to market. Some exporters outsource export documentation while bigger ones have specialist teams to handle MAF and export requirements.

Complying with food regulations for export might be expensive initially but the returns justify it, says Honey Valley New Zealand managing director Steve Lyttle.

“Don’t be put off by regulations.

“We need risk-management programmes under the Animal Products Act [that governs procedures], but the act has fast-tracked our business more than anything else has. Having documentation and systems gives us traceable honey right down to the particular processing batch. Asian buyers love that certainty. It’s a great marketing tool.”

A key regulator for Honey Valley is the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA).

This year, Lyttle has been driven to having his honey tested at the world’s top honey quality testing laboratory in Germany to clear his name when he suspected high cane sugar levels in a supply of honey he had bought. Though not a safety issue and correctable, some possibly malicious person had wind of his admission of the problem to the NZFSA and went to the media.

So even hints of a lack of compliance can open the door to sabotage.

The New Zealand Customs Service administers export/import prohibitions such as arms to Afghanistan, and checks “export entries” accurately reflect the goods being sent.

Customs client services manager Terry Brown says the electronic entry must be notified to Customs at least 48 hours before goods are due to be shipped or flown out, allowing Customs or another agency to examine the goods if necessary.

A successful entry results in the goods being cleared and being issued a Customs Export Delivery Order (CEDO) ─ no goods can be loaded without one.

Brown recommends commercial exporters employ a customs broker or freight forwarder that has software interfacing with Customs, or employ an in-house customs team.

Fees and clearance times are reduced for companies that have joined Customs’ voluntary Secure Exports Scheme (SES).


Importing countries’ phytosanitary requirements for plant and forestry products, to prevent the spread of pests and disease, are certified by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).

A MAF Biosecurity New Zealand spokesperson says the biggest incentive for exporters to comply is their knowing uncertified products are unlikely to be accepted by the importing country.

“One of the most common mistakes is to contact MAF late – just prior to departure or once product has left the country.”


Fonterra has regular ongoing meetings with regulators because of the significance of dairy to New Zealand, and good relationships with them, says Bo Patel, supply chain group global access manager.

A specialist Customs team handles those matters as an SES partner in New Zealand, and liaises with Customs about tariffs for free trade agreements, for example.

The main compliance body Patel’s team of 12 deals with is the NZFSA, which in turn monitors the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and informs Fonterra of international regulation changes. But not all countries are members of the WTO.

“Some documentation requirements are not easy to find in countries where dairy is not so important. We use our importers to help, check websites and key staff in markets or ask the customer because they want us to do the right thing.”

Translations can be time-consuming and costly.

“Sometimes we have to demonstrate the translation was done by a recognised company, not just a student, for example. So we use a New Zealand firm we can trust.

“Our tag line is ‘green lane our consignments’. Research, get the information you need. Get things right up front.”


The staff at Peter Shakes Jewellers relax while two worldwide express companies and an individual broker handle their export documentation, duties and entry fees.

Managing director Peter Shakes says occasionally a parcel is held up because the description is not adequate or the necessary paperwork is not complete.

“The US is very, very rigid, wanting to know what you are sending down to the last paperclip, almost!”

Eventually goods get cleared but missing a delivery date can affect the business’ reputation.

The company avoids identifying itself as a jeweller to minimise the risks of tampering or theft of goods in transit. Tariff codes are adequate to tell regulators who they are, and also make it clear the package is commercial and not personal, he says.

The director/owner of Star Products, trading as The Aromatherapy Company, Sarah Townsend, says compliance at the New Zealand border for exporting is pretty straightforward.

“As long as you fill out the paperwork correctly — and you do after a while — it’s okay.

“The biggest problem in exporting is the customers themselves, especially big companies, more than Customs. They can have very strict rules — one gave us a 500-page manual about carton sizes and where the label goes on the carton, and so on. And if you get it wrong, there are huge costs.

“Once you have paid for that mistake you never make it again.”


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