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Export Helpdesk: a one-stop-shop for marketing food products in Europe

SMEs that market food products typically have to address an entire network of regulations that are difficult to understand. The European Union offers a platform that provides precise and simple information for overcoming this difficulty. 

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Published by ConnectAmericas

Despite the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) efforts to liberalize markets, countries still regulate the introduction of products in their territories. In the case of food products, in addition to imposing tariffs and other taxes, States can also establish sanitary or phytosanitary barriers for purposes of protecting human, animal and plant life or health. 

The amount of rules regarding these issues and their technical characteristics may appear unmanageable for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) wishing to internationalize their products. For instance, a crab meat exporter should know that Singapore does not allow the entry of this product in frozen form, a honey exporter should know that Canada requires this product to be packaged in predetermined size containers, and a beverage exporter should know that the European Union stipulates limits on “the amount of lead, tin or palutin (mycotoxin) allowed in fruit juices, reconstituted concentrated fruit juices, and fruit nectars.”  

A study conducted by the Exporters’ Association of Guatemala (Agexport) reveals that the two main barriers for Latin American exports are, on the one hand, “ignorance of the market” and, on the other, “difficult access to markets (rules, regulations and procedures).”

Europe: a market with lots of information

The market with the most complex regulations due to its supranational nature is the European Union (EU). The 28 countries of the trade bloc have common rules that apply to food imports, passed by intergovernmental bodies.

Fortunately, since 2004 the EU has a strong information platform for businessmen seeking to export their products to countries of the Union: the “Export Helpdesk”. Its home page explains that “The European Union is the world's largest single market and the Export Helpdesk is your one-stop-shop to access it. The Export Helpdesk informs on the EU tariffs, requirements, preferential arrangements, quotas and statistics affecting business in developing countries in just some clicks.” 

The Export Helpdesk is divided into five sections. The first section, “Requirements”, discusses the different rules applying to the entry of products in the Union, whether technical, environmental or sanitary. The second section, “Tariffs”, explains the import tariffs that apply to different products. Successively, “Statistics”, offers updated information on international trade trends in the EU. In “Preferential arrangements”, businessmen can obtain information on products subject to special tariff benefits granted by the EU for different motives.

Two barriers for Latin American exports are “ignorance of the market” and “difficult access to markets”

But the most useful section of all is the fifth section called “My Export”. Here the businessman can enter the Harmonized Code of its product (or search for the code in a practical finder), the country of origin and destination country, and obtain precise and specialized information on the product that he wishes to market in the European Union. 

For instance, let’s suppose that a businessman wants to export barley for the manufacture of malt to Belgium. He would go to the Export Helpdesk page and then to the “My Export” section. If he does not know the Harmonized Code he can click on “Find my product code” and enter the description on the search bar: the code is 1003900020. With this information the businessman can then complete the form with the pending data (country of origin and destination country) and obtain the necessary information.  

The Helpdesk will first provide a link to the health control of feedingstuffs of non-animal origin. Then, there is another link with information on the import license for agricultural products that is required before exporting. Finally, there is a link with information on certification for organic products. 

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