Beginner’s Guide On Exporting Foods From the USA



In recent years, international trade has allowed global ecommerce businesses to flourish. It’s easier than ever for entrepreneurs to source and move their goods worldwide. All this is thanks to two essential building blocks: exports and imports. Typically, exports are goods shipped outside a country, while imports are goods shipped into a country. If you wish to export food products in the U.S., you will have to meet the regulations and tariffs of shipping out of the country as set by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). 

Tracing your steps into global trade? Or asking how to export food products from the USA? It’s easy to get lost between the international trade terms and sometimes hectic procedures. The uncertainties can also be daunting for novices. Well, you have come to the right place to know how to get started. 

How To Export Food Products From The USA

Below is an export procedure for food products that can guide your way into global trade.

Find an Agent to Handle the Communications

Custom and Border Protection oversees the export process. Since it implements rules and regulations on behalf of 47 other government agencies, you may be dealing with a whole list of requirements. Fortunately, you can find an agent to help with the communications. They will not only answer your questions and clear your doubts, but they are also highly experienced and can help you meet every requirement.

Register With the FDA

The FDA is a government agency that examines the safety of products meant for animal and human use, including food. It ensures that food exports meet the standards of the U.S.’s trading partners. Therefore, go through the Food and Drug Administration website, read the guidelines, and register with the agency. 

Obtain All the Necessary Documentation

You will need different documents for food products export. Some are specialized based on the export process, while others simply disclose precise details about the goods. They are essential for buyers and sellers, customs authorities, carriers, and foreign governments.

These include:

Pro Forma Invoice

It is a negotiation document between the buyer and the seller. The Pro Forma invoice offers a quote for the shipment of goods to a prospect. This invoice also contains:

  • Specifications for the two parties involved in the transaction
  • Description of the goods
  • The HTS classification appropriate for the goods
  • Cost of the goods
  • Terms of payment
  • Delivery details, including the cost of delivery and where and how the goods will be delivered
  • Currency used for the quote.

The pro forma invoice is used in creating the following crucial document. 

Commercial Invoice

Typically, this invoice lists the details about the seller of the goods and the shipment. It is used to inspect the shipment when the goods reach the buyer. The commercial invoice also helps the government further assess customs duties and affirm the accuracy of the information. In some cases, a government can request that the invoice be written in a specific language and even specify the number of copies they require.

Export Packing List 

As the name suggests, the export packing list provides a list of goods in the shipment. They further indicate the type of package in which the goods are shipped. These packages include boxes, crates, drums, and containers. Packing lists serve varying purposes. For starters, customs officials in the U.S. and the country you are exporting use the list to identify goods for inspection. Additionally, freight forwarders use the list to prepare bills of lading. 

Air Waybill

This is needed for every good shipped by an international air carrier. The air waybill covers vital information about the freight being shipped and allows you to track the shipment to its intended location. 

Bill of Lading 

The bill of lading is simply a contract between the exporter and the shipper. It contains signatures from the carrier, shipper, and receiver and information about the shipment type, number of goods, and shipment destination. The bill also acts as a shipment receipt when the goods are delivered to the destination. Remember that this document must be included with the shipment. This is regardless of the mode of transportation and the type of products being shipped. 

Certificate of Origin

Certain goods need a certificate of origin to confirm that the exporter in the U.S. adheres to tariff regulations. It can either be generic or a Free Trade Agreement certificate of origin. No trade agreements are involved for the former, while the latter means that preferential treatment may be given. This could be free or reduced tariffs. 

Certificate of Conformity

Specific countries require this certificate for specific types of goods. It indicates that the food meets the standards of the U.S. and the country you are exporting to. The exporter is responsible for testing the goods and ensuring they meet the standards stated in the certificate of conformity. 

Export License

95% of goods exported from the U.S. do not need an export license. The problem is other countries may require it. You may need this license based on the food you are exporting and where you wish to export to.

The Two Documents You Will Always Need

No matter if you’re exporting or importing, you’ll need these two documents:

Bill of Lading

Bill of lading is very crucial whether importing or exporting. It is signed by both importers and exporters and contains essential information about the shipment, including:

  • Description of goods
  • Quantity of goods
  • Weight of goods 
  • Name of recipient
  • Address of recipient
  • Terms of sale 

Commercial Invoice

The commercial invoice is grouped with the packing list because they incorporate almost the same information. Still, the packing list is more detailed with the summary of the goods. When filling these two documents, it’s important to ensure the details match.

The commercial invoice will contain the following:

Name and address of both the seller (exporter) and the buyer(importer)

  • Value of goods
  • Quantity of goods
  • Description of goods

On the other hand, the packing list will incorporate: 

  • Description of the goods
  • Quantity and weight of the goods
  • Number of packages
  • Type of packaging
  • Vital marks or numbers are put on the cargo pieces and used to identify them 
  • The ship name of the carrier
  • Date of exportation of the goods
  • Export license number
  • Letter of credit number

Why Do You Need All This Documentation? 

Export documents provide information to all parties involved and promote a smooth transition out of the U.S. and into the intended country. Therefore, having the proper documents to ship the goods is most important. Moreover, the goods will have to clear customs when arriving in a country. Appropriate documentation will prevent any surprises down the road, including fines and goods seizure. Various U.S. Federal agencies also track the goods that leave the country, and besides, you will need to affirm that the food meets the regulations of foreign customs agencies. 

Needless to say, both export and import documents foster a more seamless shipping process. Some of these documents allow you to provide information about the shipped goods, promoting transparency between the exporter and importer. This is very helpful where face-to-face transactions are not the order of the day, which describes the world of international trade. 

How Do You Prepare The Export Documents? 

The good news is filling out the documents is a straightforward process. In most cases, you simply fill out the empty fields with the required details. While some can be completed online, others need to be sent in a physical form. Still, the series of documents can be time-consuming. A solution is to save yourself time and effort by involving a customs broker. 

Contact ATI To Help You Start Exporting Food Products

Wonder how to export food products from the USA? At American Trading International, we work closely with importers and exporters in various industries, helping them achieve smooth shipping processes effortlessly. Our vast international experience lets us know the relevant documentation you need from beginning to end. Moreover, we do everything for you, from filling out to submitting the paperwork, while involving you at every step for transparency. With us guiding the way, you can start your trade journey like a pro! 

Contact ATI today to learn more about how we can help you with your international trade needs.

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